Laughing gas, known also by its formal name nitrous oxide, is used as a mild sedative in dentistry. It doesn’t smell and you can’t see it, but it helps you relax quickly in order to complete your dental procedure. You’ve heard of laughing gas, and maybe you’ve even received it during a procedure. But what exactly does this gas do, when it is used, and should you be worried about its effects? Here’s everything you want to know about nitrous oxide as used in dentistry!
What Procedures It’s Used In
Laughing gas can be used for any procedure in which the patient feels anxious, has a gag reflex that may prevent dental care, a patient who cannot receive other forms of anesthesia, or children who can’t tolerate dental procedures, such as those with special needs.
Does Laughing Gas Cause Adverse Reactions?
Although reactions from laughing gas are rare, they can happen in some patients. They usually are the result of too much laughing gas or from the gas being inhaled too rapidly. Patients who have reactions may get headaches, feel cold or hot, feel nauseous or need to vomit, or be very tired. Your dentist will ensure you receive the right amount of laughing gas to be comfortable for your procedure.
How Laughing Gas Works
Your dentist will place a small mask—sometimes called a clown nose—over your nose and have you breathe normally through your nose. You will not fall asleep and will still be able to speak with the dentist and respond to questions.
Laughing gas usually takes a few minutes to take effect and the effects begin to wear off as soon as the mask is removed. Once the gas is discontinued, you’ll receive oxygen for about five minutes to help you avoid a headache later. Oxygen also helps to fully get rid of the gas once the effects wear off and your procedure is done!
How Should You Prepare for Laughing Gas?
You should have something on your stomach before your procedure, but eating a big meal isn’t recommended before or after the procedure. You should talk to your dentist about when it’s ok for you to eat or drive following the procedure.
Laughing Gas and Children
Laughing gas is safe for children and is actually the most commonly used form of sedation dentistry for kids. It can be very helpful in relaxing children for procedures that would otherwise be frightening or painful.
Who Should Not Receive Laughing Gas?
Women who are in their first trimester of pregnancy, patients who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a history of substance abuse or mental health concerns should speak with their dentist prior to the procedure about whether or not nitrous oxide will be safe for them to have.
Laughing gas is always used for relatively short procedures and can help keep you relaxed and still while relieving any anxiety you may have. Laughing gas has many advantages as a form of sedation—you can talk with your dentist about whether or not laughing gas would be a good fit for your dental procedure or a dental procedure for your child that requires anesthesia.