Nitrous oxide is commonly used in dentist’s offices to help the patient relax while undergoing a dental procedure that has the potential to cause discomfort or fear. Because it reduces pain, nitrous oxide is considered an analgesic. In some cases, nitrous oxide will mitigate the need for local anesthesia. Nitrous oxide is also an anxiolytic, meaning that it will put your child in a pharmacologically-induced state of consciousness. He or she will remain awake, but will have decreased awareness of the surroundings and those in the room.
Nitrous oxide is delivered through a mask placed over the face. The patient will be told to breathe through the nose. As the gas begins to take effect, the child will become relaxed and less nervous. The pain threshold is increased and time may appear to pass quickly. Normal sensations experienced by patients under the influence of laughing gas include tingling in the toes, fingers and head; resonation in the voice; fits of uncontrollable laughing or giggling; an “out-of-body” feeling; an overall experience of warmth; sluggishness in motion; slurring and/or repetition in speech; heaviness in the legs; and a light, floating feeling. In rare cases, a child may feel dizzy or nauseous.
Nitrous oxide enhances communication between your child and the dentist during the procedure. It also reduces the gag reflex, which can interfere with the dental procedure. To avoid vomiting and aspiration, be sure to avoid food and drink for two hours prior to the scheduled treatment.
Nitrous oxide is safe to use and is completely eliminated from the body after the source is removed. Your child will remain awake during the entire procedure and will be able to communicate with the dentist the whole time. After the procedure is complete, the dentist will administer 100 percent oxygen to for three to five minutes. The oxygen will help flush the nitrous oxide and its effects from your child’s body. Nitrous oxide leaves no lingering effects.
Nitrous oxide is perhaps the safest relaxant used in dentistry to date. It is extremely well-tolerated, works quickly and can be provided in various concentrations. Because the only two ingredients in nitrous oxide are nitrous oxide and oxygen, it is completely non-allergenic. Your child will remain fully conscious while under the influence of the nitrous oxide and able to respond to questions or requests.
If your child suffers from a condition that makes breathing through the nose difficult, please inform our office. In rare cases such as severe anxiety disorders or nasal congestion, nitrous oxide may be ineffective. We will review your child’s medical history, anxiety levels and treatment needs in deciding whether nitrous oxide is the best option for your child.