Lindsay Olsen, RDH
WHAT IS LAUGHING GAS?
Nitrous oxide (N2O), commonly referred to as laughing gas, is a safe and effective sedative agent that is mixed with oxygen and inhaled through a small mask that fits over your nose to help you relax. Nitrous oxide is effective as a sedative because it relaxes patients with the pleasurable feelings it emits. Nitrous oxide’s common use in dentistry is due to how quickly it works and that its effects are reversible. For those and other reasons, nitrous oxide is widely considered to be a safe sedation method, even for children!
NITROUS OXIDE FOR CHILDREN
Not only is it safe for children, but laughing gas is a preferred sedation method for children who are nervous or anxious about a pending procedure. Discuss with your child’s dentist ahead of time to determine the appropriate sedation method. Some children may suffer from nausea or have difficulty wearing the mask needed to breathe it in.
The CDA reports that only a minority of patients experience any negative side effects. They can occur if the nitrous level is too high or if the amount being inhaled quickly changes. Potential side effects are as follows:
- Excessive sweating
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Once the nitrous oxide has been turned off, a patient needs to receive oxygen for at least five minutes to avoid a headache. The oxygen removes any remaining gas from the lungs while aiding the patient in becoming alert and awake. As soon and the patient is feeling alert, the dental professional can release the patient to drive oneself home.
Meals are another focus point when receiving nitrous oxide. It’s a good idea to eat lightly prior to your procedure and avoid a big meal for three hours afterward.
Contraindications for Nitrous Oxide
While it’s an effective sedative to ease your dental anxiety, nitrous oxide might not be the right choice for you. Tell your dentist or dental hygienist if you have any of the following conditions: first trimester of pregnancy, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), a methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase deficiency, or a cobalamin deficiency. Additionally, if you are receiving treatment using bleomycin sulfate or have a history of emotional issues or drug addiction, laughing gas may not be recommended.
Talk to your dentist about whether nitrous oxide would be a good option for you.
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