Nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas) is a clear, odorless gas that is used as a mild sedative during dental procedures. The main indication for using nitrous oxide is to reduce fear and anxiety in a patient but nitrous oxide can also reduce pain and minimize a hyperactive gag reflex. The gas is administered with a mixture of oxygen and has a calming effect that helps anxious patients relax during their dental treatment. The sedative effects of nitrous oxide have a quick onset and allow patients to remain conscious and talk to their dentist during their visit. We usually tell parents that it gives a feeling similar to having a glass or two of wine. Nitrous oxide is very safe and the effects wear off almost immediately.
Our office uses nitrous oxide during most operative procedures (filling, crowns, extractions). We also often use nitrous oxide when placing sealants on young children in order to help minimize the gag reflex and relieve any anxiety. We explain the use of nitrous oxide to our patients by referring to it as happy air, laughing gas, silly air, etc. We have our patients breath through a nasal mask and have them try to guess what the air smells like (most say they smell chocolate or strawberries but some have even said they smell pizza, hot dogs, or even burnt bacon!) After the procedure is over we have the patients breath 100% oxygen for 3 to 5 minutes to make sure that all of the nitrous oxide is out of their system and they don’t have any residual dizziness.
If your child is going to receive nitrous oxide make sure that they have little or no food in the two hours prior to the appointment. Children with full stomachs can sometimes experience nausea or vomiting during nitrous oxide sedation. Please let us know if your child has any respiratory condition that makes breathing through the nose difficult as it can limit the effectiveness of nitrous oxide. Also, make sure you let us know if your child is taking any medications.