Nitrous Oxide Sedation

dr_patientNitrous Oxide, also known as “laughing gas,” is one of the key elements in administering painless dentistry. All bodily functions remain normal, and the person is able to breathe on his or her own. The patient will often fall asleep because they are so relaxed.

With Nitrous Oxide most patients who are afraid of pain associated with needles no longer have to avoid dental treatment.

Nitrous oxide/oxygen is perhaps the safest sedative in dentistry. The gas is well tolerated, a rapid onset is reversible, can be adjusted in various concentrations and is non-allergenic. The patient remains fully conscious – keeps all natural reflexes – when breathing nitrous oxide/oxygen. He or she will be capable of responding to a question or request. Nitrous oxide/oxygen may also be used in combination with other sedative agents.

The benefits of nitrous oxide are many, and the risks are few. The gas is administered with a comfortable mask placed over the nose, and the patient is instructed to breathe in through the nose and out through his or her mouth. As a precaution, patients should not eat anything for about two hours prior to use of the gas. The patient begins to feel a pleasant level of sedation anywhere from 30 seconds to three or four minutes. The cheeks and gums will also begin to feel numb in about a third of the patients.

Nitrous oxide has few side effects. High doses can cause nausea in some patients, and about 10 percent of patients do not benefit from it. Patients that are claustrophobic or have blocked nasal passages cannot use nitrous oxide effectively.

Physiological effects last a minute or two for a lungful of nitrous and then mainly dissipate. Some residual effects may last up to several minutes later. Unlike other drugs, the effects of nitrous very rapidly recede.