Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide has been used since 1844 in order to help patients remain comfortable throughout their dental procedures. This odorless and colorless gas can create highly pleasurable sensations in patients when inhaled, distracting them from the pain that could be associated with dental procedures such as tooth extraction. Today, many advancements in dentistry have improved upon the administration, gas mixture, and techniques used to administer nitrous oxide sedation, making it one of the more popular forms of sedation dentistry in use today.

What is nitrous oxide/oxygen sedation?

In the past, nitrous oxide was used in its undiluted form to reduce the discomfort dental patients felt during their treatment. Unfortunately, using the gas in this way can cause hypoxia, a condition that occurs when the body has been deprived of oxygen. This can cause dizziness and other unpleasant symptoms, not to mention medical problems. Today, nitrous oxide is mixed with oxygen in order to eliminate the danger of hypoxia, while still keeping patients calm during their dental treatments. This form of sedation is used in dental offices, hospitals, inpatient, and outpatient treatment offices around the world.

How will nitrous oxide/oxygen sedation feel?

As with any sedation, the goal of using nitrous oxide/oxygen is to keep you relaxed throughout your appointment. Depending on the level of sedation used, you may experience anything from mild relaxation to complete unconsciousness. In our office, you will only be under mild sedation, meaning that you will still be able to hear, see, and respond to anything taking place in the office around you. You will simply feel very relaxed and far less likely to experience any anxiety.

Nitrous oxide/oxygen sedation is within the mildest category of sedation available. You may feel a tingling sensation and will most likely experience a sense of well-being. Once inhalation of the gas is discontinued, the effects will cease almost immediately.

What is laughing gas?

Laughing gas is another term that refers to the nitrous oxide/oxygen mixture. When the effects of nitrous oxide were initially studied, researchers noticed that patients would feel ecstatic or giddy while inhaling the gas, causing them to giggle or laugh. In many parts of the world, the term “laughing gas” is often still used when referring to nitrous oxide/oxygen sedation.

How is nitrous oxide/oxygen sedation administered?

The nitrous oxide gas and oxygen are stored in canisters in our office. A small tube and mask will be placed over your nose, allowing you to breathe the mixture, which will be regulated using a flowmeter. This is a very simple, easy-to-use system, and is completely safe.

Is nitrous oxide/oxygen sedation safe?

This form of sedation has been used for decades, allowing experts and dental researchers to study its use over a long period of time. The effects of nitrous oxide/oxygen sedation on the very young, pregnant, and elderly patients have been well documented. The same is true of any observed side effects and medication interactions. This means that nitrous oxide/oxygen sedation is one of the most well-researched and safest forms of sedation in use today. There are few, if any, side effects from this form of sedation, and to date, there have been no documented allergic reactions.

Who is a good candidate for nitrous oxide/oxygen sedation?

Almost any patient is able to undergo nitrous oxide/oxygen sedation, including young children and the elderly. In fact, the only patients who should not use this form of sedation are pregnant women in their first trimester and patients with emphysema. Those who have recently undergone ear surgery should also avoid this form of sedation.

What are the side effects of nitrous oxide/oxygen sedation?

Side effects from this form of sedation are very rare, and usually, only occur when too much nitrous oxide has been used. The most commonly reported side effects are nausea and vomiting. In children, side effects occur less than 1 percent of the time and were quickly reversed with an elimination of the nitrous and addition of pure oxygen.

Can nitrous oxide/oxygen be used for pain relief?

Though the nitrous oxide/oxygen mixture is an analgesic, it is very weak. This means that it is not particularly effective at blocking pain for extended periods of time. If you are undergoing oral surgery, you will most likely use a different form of sedation.

If you have any questions about nitrous oxide/oxygen sedation, or if you would like to find out if you might be a good candidate for this type of sedation dentistry during an upcoming procedure, call our office today. We will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.