Pain Free Dentistry - Nitrous Oxide
Nitrous Oxide, also called laughing gas, is a gas that has been safely used as a mild anesthetic in combination with oxygen for over a century. It is a colorless gas with pleasant, sweetish odor and taste, which when inhaled produces insensibility to pain preceded by mild hysteria or laughter.
Nitrous oxide is used in roughly one third of dental practices in the United States, especially to soften the anxiety that many patients may have toward dental treatment. 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 their 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 in 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. After the gas is adjusted to the appropriate dose, and the patient is relaxed and sedated, the dentist can comfortably give the anesthetic injection (if needed) to the patient, and then proceed with dental treatment. After the treatment is completed, the patient is given pure oxygen to breathe for about five minutes, and all the effects of sedation are usually reversed. The patient can almost always leave the office by themselves, without an escort.
Nitrous oxide is not without its risks. High doses can cause nausea in some patients, and about 10% of patients do not benefit from it. Patients that are claustrophobic or have blocked nasal passages cannot use nitrous oxide effectively. If you wish to use nitrous oxide, speak with your dentist first about the risks associated with this chemical.