Everything You Need to Know About Nitrous Oxide in Dentistry

Image of relaxed dental patient after dental sedation.

Nitrous oxide sedation is one of the most common ways to sedate patients during cosmetic procedures like work on toothaches and gum infections. Nitrous oxide is often coined laughing gas because of its relaxing effects on patients. The gas has no color, no smell and does not irritate the patient.

Still, sedation in dentistry is surrounded constantly by curiosity. There is no need to feel nervous about the inhalation gas! But in case you do, we have listed out all the facts you need to know about N2O to take your fears away.  

  • Nitrous oxide is just a gas that you can breathe! It was discovered by Humphrey Davy back in 1772. Davy was one of the pioneers of N2O experimenting. He even tried the gas on himself to test results.
  • N2O kills the pain. When it does so, it also induces a pleasurable feeling. Most describe it as euphoric.
  • It only takes five minutes to kick in!
  • Some people feel effects in their auditory and visual sense.
  • Most people get the giggles, which is why it is often called laughing gas.
  • In the late 1700s and early 1800s, laughing gas demonstrations were performed as a source of entertainment. It was also a common drug choice amongst youth.
  • The N2O we use today actually contains at least 30 percent oxygen. The oxygen makes the gas safe to use for longer periods of time. Most mixes are actually about 70 percent oxygen!
  • There are four main levels of sedation that most patients reach. All of them are completely normal and sound no cause for alarm. Here is what you can expect to experience:
    • Paresthesia or a tingling sensation in the arms and legs. It will cause a feeling of vibration throughout your body
    • Sensation of warmth in the body
    • Euphoria. Most patients a state of floating and happiness under the sedative. When it is used in larger amount, hearing can dissipate and turn into a more constant throbbing. The throbbing is gentle and relaxing, not pounding and loud.
    • Sleepiness is also common. When heavy doses of N2O are given, it becomes difficult to keep the eyes open. If you feel sleepy and nauseous, let your doctor know. You might be over-sedated.
  • There is special equipment used to deliver the laughing gas. The dose given is controlled by on/off switches and closely monitored by a dentist or hygienist. Twin tubes run through a double mask and let the gas in and out (one valve for each desired function).

The reason dentists opt to use nitrous oxide instead of other sedatives is because it is so safe. There are many other advantages, as well. Here are some of the most common:

  • It is quick! N2O is speedy. It reaches the brain in 20 seconds and takes only 2-3 minutes for the effects to kick in.
  • The level of sedation is easy to control and alter. If a patient needs more or less sedation, the valve system allows the dentist to easily let out gas and filter more in.
  • The lifespan of the effects is not fixed. The dentist can determine exactly how much time is needed for the patient to be under and accommodate the gas effects accordingly.
  • No after effects are felt by the patient. They can drive home about five minutes after the gas treatment stops.
  • No injections are necessary. Many patients have a phobia of needles and injections, so the delivery system of the gas is preferable.
  • Laughing gas is known to reduce the likelihood of gagging, which is a common reaction in many dental procedures.

And there we have it! All you need to know about N2O. For a laughing gas dentist experience you can trust, come see us at Doral Miami.

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