Nitrous Sedation (AKA Laughing Gas)
Nitrous Oxide Benefits
If you've ever been to the dentist (and hopefully you have), you're probably familiar with nitrous oxide. Often called laughing gas or sweet air, nitrous oxide is a common form of sedation dentistry that produces a euphoric effect. Nitrous oxide is provided during dental procedures to relieve dental anxiety in both children and adults.
Nitrous oxide is a gas that's administered through the nose and exhaled through the mouth, eliminating it from the body almost immediately. Before receiving dental treatment, a mask is placed over the nose of the patient. This allows the dentist to work on the mouth uninterrupted.
After a few minutes, the effects of the nitrous oxide start to take place. Although you won't get the giggles, you will experience a light, airy feeling. Don't get too comfortable, though -- it ends once the mask is removed.
Take the Edge Off
Nitrous oxide sedation was originally used for recreational purposes. It wasn't until the mid-1800s that this "laughing gas" was provided as a general anesthetic during surgery. Up until then, medical and dental surgery was done without any anesthetic at all! Now nitrous oxide is combined with oxygen in order to produce a calming effect while patients remain conscious. And it's so gentle that patients can resume normal activities and drive themselves home following dental treatments.
But don't expect laughing gas to take the place of the needle! Nitrous oxide is mainly used in conjunction with local dental anesthesia, which is still necessary to numb your mouth during oral surgery. Unfortunately, patients can't benefit from laughing gas for post-treatment discomfort. You will recover from the effects of nitrous oxide long before the numbness from local dental anesthesia wears off.
Like any drug, there are pros and cons to using laughing gas during dental procedures:
Great for fearful patients and children
Patient remains conscious and can communicate with the dentist
There are limited or no side effects of nitrous oxide
Wears off quickly with little or no recovery time
Considered safe and non-addictive when used correctly
Patient does not need an escort
Not a substitute for local dental anesthesia during major dental surgery
Overmedicating or using nitrous oxide on a full stomach may cause nausea or vomiting
It may not work on extremely phobic patients
Not recommended for patients who have difficulty breathing in through the nose
No Laughing Matter
When administered correctly, nitrous oxide sedation is a safe, effective way to eliminate dental anxiety. And no, you can't get it on your own. Dentists and dental hygienists must complete the appropriate coursework to administer nitrous oxide, and many states require a permit to obtain it.
If you're avoiding the dentist out of fear, nitrous oxide can help you get the professional dental care you need. And if you don't have a dentist, let us help you find one!