Let’s talk about laughing gas (nitrous oxide). What it is? Does it really work does it get rid of the pain? Is it safe for kids?
Laughing gas aka nitrous oxide aka n2o is a gas that is administered through a mask that sits on your nose. it doesn’t put you out or anything like that you’re still conscious. But what it does is that it lets you feel relaxed. Most patients feel a floaty feeling. They call it laughing gas because similar to being tipsy or under the influence, things are just sometimes more fun. Because you’re so relaxed, nothing really matters. It’s a good feeling. a good way to be especially if you’re someone who has dental anxiety. If you are nervous about being at the dentist, nitrous oxide is a great option to ease your anxiety and lower your stress.
On top of helping get rid of dental anxiety, it can also help reduce sensitive gag reflexes. So if you are someone who has a hard time with dental work because you feel gaggy. It’s super uncomfortable when dental instruments are in your mouth. In general nitrous oxide might be a great option for you as well.
So what do you do if you want to try it?
Sometimes dentists automatically offer laughing gas. Other times you have to specifically request it before your appointment. Every office is different. Some offices do not have it at all. So always ask ahead if that’s a concern of yours.
Now once you’re at your appointment starting your laughing gas, what should you expect if you’ve never had it before?
Like we said at the beginning, what happens is that you breathe the gas oxygen mixture through a soft nose piece mask sitting on your face. Some offices even have scented nose pieces so you can pick out the scent you want to smell which is kind of fun. And then after a few minutes, you tend to feel warm with a little tingling sensation in your hands and feet super comfy. Again you will be awake, you will just be less concerned about what’s going on around you.
Once your treatment is complete, and your dental procedure is over, they will flush the line with 100 oxygen to clear your system of any nitrous oxide. So you’ll sit there for a few minutes breathing in the oxygen through your nose until your dentist or dental hygienist dismisses you. Once you’re cleared to leave, you can drive yourself home afterward without any drowsy side effects. There are actually no lingering side effects at all. It is 100 reversible as soon as your dental provider turns the nitrous oxide off.
Other sedation medications typically leave you drowsy where you would need someone else to drive you. Wisdom tooth extractions are a good example of things like that. They generally use a deeper sedative, like twilight in addition to nitrous. But nitrous oxide itself it’s completely reversible. So once you’ve been released at the end of your appointment, it’s totally safe to sit behind the wheel and head back home.
Another cool thing about nitrous is that it is safe for all ages which are especially awesome in helping young children sit still during the procedures. Even if a kid is super well behaved, they are a kid, sometimes we say sit still they still might accidentally move and we don’t want that when we have a drill in their mouth. So for that reason to be safe, lots of pediatric dental offices use laughing gas with their child patients. Like we said it is super-fast acting and quickly reversible which is so ideal for kids and adults of all ages.
Can you still feel pain though?
Nitrous oxide takes the edge off and makes you feel relaxed, but it doesn’t numb your teeth. So if we did not numb you up, then yes you would still feel pain. But the cool thing is since lots of patients have a fear of needles and getting numb, if you put the nitrous on first, you get all good and relaxed. Then when we numb you with a needle you are already in a state of mind that won’t be stressed about getting a shot. Both the local anesthetic and the nitrous oxide paired together are the perfect recipe for a low-key dental experience where you are chilling like a villain.