Commonly called "laughing gas,” nitrous oxide elevates general mood and evokes a general sense of well-being. Nitrous oxide sedation falls within the mildest category of sedation. Patients can still hear, see and respond to action taking place around them, but people are much less likely to experience anxiety as a result of these environmental stimuli.
Patients may feel tingling or a sense of well-being, euphoria or floating. However they remain alert. Nitrous oxide and oxygen gases are stored in canisters and delivered in combination to patients via a tube and small mask. A flowmeter regulates the amount of nitrous oxide and oxygen delivered. This simple and straightforward system is easy for the dentist and dental staff to operate and maintain.
Advantages of Nitrous Oxide
Nitrous oxide works very rapidly - it reaches the brain within 20 seconds, and relaxation and pain-killing properties develop after 2 or 3 minutes.
The depth of sedation can be altered from moment to moment, allowing the person who administers the gas to increase or decrease the depth of sedation. Other sedation techniques don't llow for this. For example, with IV sedation, it's easy to deepen the level of sedation, but difficult to lessen it. Whereas with laughing gas, the effects are almost instant.
The gas can be given for the exact time span it's needed for. It can also be switched off when not needed and then switched on again. There's no"hangover" effect and the gas is eliminated from the body within 3 to 5 minutes after the gas supply is stopped. This means you can safely drive home and don't need an escort.
WIth nitrous oxide, it's easy to give incremental doses until the desired action is obtained, similar to IV sedation. So the administrator has virtually absolute control over the action of the drug, facilitating optimal comfort and preventing the possibility of accidental overdoses.
For certain procedures - hose involving gums rather than teeth (eg. periodontal treatment or deep cleaning), it may be possible to use nitrous instead of local anaesthesia. N2O acts as a painkiller on soft tissues such as gums. However, its pain-relieving effects vary a lot from person to person and can't be relied upon.
Inhalation sedation is very safe. It has very few side effects. It can be used safely in patients from very young to the elderly. It should however be avoided in women who are in their first trimester of pregnancy.
Inhalation sedation has been found to be very effective in eliminating or a least minimizing severe gagging.
Some people will not achieve adequate levels of sedation with safe concentrations of nitrous oxide and oxygen. Patients who are particularly fearful, or those who are anxious about more extensive procedures such as surgical procedures or extensive dental restorative work may benefit from a deeper level of sedation such as Intravenous Sedation.
If you can't breathe through your nose, or feel too claustrophobic when you put something over your nose, you may not be a suitable candidate.