Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas)

What is nitrous oxide?

Nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas, is blend of oxygen and nitrous oxide. It is administered to your child through a snug rubber mask that covers their nose. It provides a calming sensation to anxious children who need a little bit more to help them feel relaxed. It is also extremely helpful in those kids with a severe gag reflex. Some patients feel it has a mild “numbing” effect and they are less aware of the treatment (sounds, sights, etc.) taking place, by raising the pain threshold.

Is nitrous oxide safe?

Yes, it is extremely safe. Most anesthesiologist would consider it one of the safest types of sedation. It is well tolerated and nonaddictive. It takes effect very quickly and it is similarly eliminated from the body very rapidly. It is non-allergic and the effects are easily reversible by simply turning it off and administering 100% oxygen for a few minutes. Your child will remain fully awake, maintain their reflexes, and be able to communicate. After the procedure, the effects will have worn off by the time your child leaves the office.

Are there any instructions before and after?

Nitrous oxide can make some people feel a little nausea. It is best if your child does not eat at least an hour prior to the dental appointment. If the nitrous oxide is to be combined with another sedation agent then this time might be longer. If your child is congested or unable to breathe from their nose, let your pediatric dentist know. This will prevent the nitrous oxide from working. Your child will be given 100% oxygen after the treatment is completed to allow the nitrous oxide to clear from their system. However, they may still feel dizzy for few minutes when standing up. This normally passes after a few minutes.

My child is hysterical, will nitrous oxide work?

Probably not. Nitrous oxide, while very effective, is one of the mildest forms of sedation. In order for it to work your child needs to tolerate wearing the soft rubber nose and then breathe from their mouth. Children who are crying, talking a lot, or hysterical tend to breath from their mouth making the laughing gas ineffective. Your pediatric dentist can go over other options available for your child if nitrous oxide is not enough.


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