What is Nitrous Oxide-Oxygen Sedation Dentistry?

May 19, 2021 | Oral Surgery

A lot of people, children and adults alike, have a fear of the dentist. For some it is the atmosphere, others the sound of the equipment, and still others are deterred by the potential for their procedure to be painful.

If you or your child has a fear of going to the dentist, nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation dentistry may be able to help. This method relaxes the patient and helps make their visit go a little more smoothly, whether they’re having a cleaning, filling, or some other procedure performed.

How Does Nitrous Oxide-Oxygen Sedation Dentistry Work?

Also known as “inhaled minimal sedation”, this type of sedation dentistry occurs when nitrous oxide (a.k.a. laughing gas) is mixed with oxygen and administered via a mask that’s placed over the patient’s nose. The dentist administering the gas has complete control of how much sedation you’ll receive to ensure you’re never getting too much or too little.

Patients are still conscious while nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation is administered, but the gas tends to make them feel much more at ease than they might otherwise. The gas starts working soon after the mask is placed over the patient’s nose and wears off very quickly after the mask is removed. In many cases, the effects of nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation wear off so rapidly that most patients can drive themselves home after their appointment.

What Should I Expect During Nitrous Oxide-Oxygen Sedation Dentistry?

Most dentists who administer nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation will recommend their patients avoid eating for at least a couple of hours before their appointment. This is because nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation combined with a full stomach can sometimes result in nausea or vomiting.

You should also inform your dentist if you have a stuffy nose or any other condition that may make it difficult to breathe through your nose, as a restricted airway can limit nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation’s effectiveness. Additionally, make sure your dentist is aware of any medications you are taking and your medical history so that you can ensure they are administering nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation safely.

Once the mask is placed over your nose, you will start to smell a slightly sweet aroma. Within a minute or two, you’ll begin to feel relaxed and happy. Many patients even describe their experience as being giddy, dreamy, or even euphoric, hence the nickname “laughing gas”. After the procedure is over, your dentist will remove the mask and the effects of the nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation will wear off shortly after.

Am I a Good Candidate For Nitrous Oxide-Oxygen Sedation Dentistry?

Most people who have anxiety surrounding dental visits are good candidates for nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation. You may also be a good candidate if you have:

  • A low pain threshold
  • Sensitive teeth
  • A bad gag reflex
  • A bad experience with past dental visits
  • Very sensitive oral nerves
  • A small mouth that gets tired or sore during dental work
  • Resistance to local anesthetic

While nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation is safe for most people, you should tell your dentist if you are in your first trimester of pregnancy or if you have

  • A history of respiratory problems
  • A vitamin B-12 deficiency
  • A history of substance abuse
  • A history of mental health conditions

If you’re feeling a little nervous about your next checkup, cleaning, or procedure, please reach out to us! We’re happy to discuss our process with you and do anything else we can to make your next visit with us a pleasant one.