Nitrous Oxide is commonly called laughing gas and is often recommended for children that need to undergo a dental procedure that may be uncomfortable or cause fear or anxiety. The purpose of Nitrous Oxide is to make it more comfortable for your child to receive the necessary dental care with less pain and/or anxiety. Nitrous oxide is classified as an analgesic because it reduces pain and for many procedures makes local anesthesia unnecessary. It is also an anxiolytic, which means your child will be in a pharmacologically induced state of consciousness where he/she is awake but has decreased anxiety to facilitate coping skills, retaining interactive ability. Nitrous Oxide helps to ease patient’s fears so as to help them relax during their visit, and to receive dental treatment in a comfortable and safe manner. It is typically delivered through a mask over the nose; nitrous oxide is mixed directly with oxygen and delivered as the patient breathes in and out regularly. The patient is usually asked to breathe normally through the nose, and as the gas begins to take effect, the child will become more relaxed and less nervous. It raises the pain threshold and may even make the time appear to pass quickly. Some normal sensations that a patient may feel may include tingling in the fingers, toes, cheeks, lips, tongue, head or cheek area; heaviness in the thighs and/or legs, followed by a lighter floating feeling; resonation in the voice; warm feeling throughout body, flushed cheeks; fits of uncontrollable laughter or giddiness; a lightweight or floating sensation with an accompanying “out of body” sensation; sluggishness in motion and slurring and/or repetition of words. Rarely a child may feel dizzy or nauseous. We do ask you not to give your child any food or drinks for two hours prior to any procedure scheduled requiring the use of laughing gas. Laughing gas enhances communication between your child and their doctor during dental procedures. Additionally, it reduces the gag reflex, which can interfere with effective dental treatment. All of these sensations and reactions are temporary and go away after 100% oxygen is delivered at the end of the procedure.
Nitrous Oxide is 100% safe to use during treatment and is eliminated from the body quickly after the gas is turned off. The child will remain awake during the entire procedure and will be able to interact and communicate with the pediatric dentist. After the procedure(s) are over, the nitrous oxide gas will be turned off and your child will be given oxygen for 3 to 5 minutes, which flushes the laughing gas and its effects out of your child’s system. There are no lingering effects.
Nitrous Oxide is perhaps the safest relaxant used in dentistry. It is well tolerated, having a rapid onset, and is reversible, can be adjusted in various concentrations and is non-allergenic. Absolutely no one is allergic to oxygen or Nitrogen, which are the only two ingredients in Nitrous Oxide. Your child remains fully conscious and maintains all natural reflexes when breathing the gases. He or she will be capable of responding to a question or request. You should inform our office regarding any respiratory condition that makes breathing through the nose difficult for your child. In a very small percentage of children Nitrous Oxide may not be effective, especially those children who have severe anxiety, nasal congestion or discomfort wearing a nasal mask. We will review your child’s medical history, level of anxiety, and treatment needs and inform you if nitrous oxide is recommended for your child.
Dr. Larson and Dr. Buonocore are Board Certified Pediatric Dentists that have devoted their entire practice to meeting the dental needs of children.