At Parkhaven Dental Care your comfort is the primary focus of our doctors: Drs. Pincus, Dr. Sayek, and Dr. Dad. We have several anxiety- and pain-reducing methods available to our patients. One of our most commonly used dental sedation methods is nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas. You might not be giggling before it’s used, but chances are you won’t feel — or fret — much after you receive it.
Some people fail to receive the benefits of modern dental treatment because of a simple yet seemingly overwhelming problem: Fear. It isn’t uncommon to have a little anxiety about an upcoming dental procedure. But if your fears have kept you away from the dental office when you know you really should go — take heart! Using conscious sedation with nitrous oxide, we can help you lose that anxiety, and make the whole experience so stress-free that you may not even remember it when it’s over.
What Is Nitrous Oxide?
Nitrous oxide, a colorless gas with a slightly sweet odor, has been used in medicine for about a century; however its outdated nickname, “laughing gas,” is undeserved. It’s a safe and effective method of administering conscious sedation — which means that you’ll stay awake during the procedure. But when nitrous oxide is used in combination with a local anesthetic, you won’t feel pain or anxiety. In fact, many patients report a feeling of well-being during this type of sedation. All bodily functions remain normal during the administration of nitrous oxide, and its effects wear off quickly afterwards.
Nitrous oxide is perhaps the most sought-after clinical sedative because it offers an ideal experience: a painkiller that induces a euphoric feeling. It is a safe and effective sedative that is mixed with oxygen and inhaled through a mask that fits over your nose. It is odorless, pleasant tasting, and typically begins to work within five minutes.
When laughing gas is first administered, you’ll feel:
- A warm sense of well-being
- Happy or silly
- A tingling sensation
- Numbness in your mouth, hands, or feet
- Hearing changes
You will remain alert and able to respond to your doctor’s requests and questions while breathing nitrous oxide. It’s an effective option for increasing comfort, because relaxation occurs quickly and the depth of sedation can be increased or decreased, which few other sedation techniques allow.
The effects of nitrous oxide begin to wear off shortly after you start breathing oxygen again. It can take up to 15 minutes after the gas supply is stopped to feel normal again, so if you opt for this sedation method, you should be able to drive home after the procedure.
How Is Nitrous Oxide Administered?
As a form of conscious sedation, nitrous oxide is inhaled through a small mask that fits comfortably over your nose. The gas is mixed with oxygen as it is being delivered, and both gases are always kept at a level that is safe for the body. In just a few minutes, you may start to experience a floating sensation, and perhaps some tingling in the hands and feet. That’s a sign that the sedation is working. Once it has been verified that you’re calm and comfortable, and that the dose is correct, your dental procedure can begin.
Nitrous oxide itself isn’t a substitute for a local anesthetic — it’s considered an anxiolytic, which means it makes anxiety disappear. For some procedures, you may still need an anesthetic injection. The difference is, you won’t mind. Yet, you won’t be asleep — you’ll be able to speak, aware of what’s going on, and you will remain in control during the procedure. In fact, the dose can be fine-tuned to just the level of sedation you need.
When the procedure is over, the flow of nitrous oxide is decreased to zero, and the oxygen may be increased. After resting in the chair for a few minutes, you’ll be able to sit up, and soon you can resume normal activities like driving. Although the experience has been compared to “having a couple of drinks,” there is very little “hangover” effect afterward.
Who Can Benefit From Nitrous Oxide?
Most people whose anxiety would otherwise keep them out of the dental chair can benefit from conscious sedation with nitrous oxide. Before beginning treatment, we will take a complete medical history, including your use of both prescription and non-prescription medications. If you are pregnant, have COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) or some other pulmonary diseases, or are taking certain drugs, it may not be right for you. However, if you feel that you would benefit from a more stress-free experience in the dental office, talk to us about nitrous oxide conscious sedation.
Who Can Use Nitrous Oxide?
Laughing gas is appropriate for adults and children alike; however, children must be able to leave the soft nosepiece on and follow directions from the dentist.
Laughing gas may not be appropriate for you if you:
- Are pregnant
- Have a stuffy nose
- Have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Suffer from congestive heart failure
- Have a recent head injury
- Have an ear infection
- Are taking medicine for a psychiatric condition