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  Dr Minh Nguyen
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No matter how comfortable, gentle, modern, supportive or reassuring a dental care team may be, some people are still a nervous wreck when they need dental treatment. Sound a bit like you? Then nitrous oxide—also called "laughing gas"—may be just the ticket! Nitrous oxide is a colorless, odorless combination of two gases—oxygen and nitrogen—that's used for its calming effect in both adults and children. The nitrogen-oxygen mixture is combined with additional oxygen, then administered through a small, soft plastic mask that fits over your nose. Breathing in normally through your nose, you'll soon notice that you're feeling calm, relaxed, and disconnected from what's going on around you. Eventually, you'll reach what's called "conscious sedation," in which you are completely relaxed—even giddy—but can still respond to questions or requests from the dental care team. During conscious sedation, you also have a decreased perception of discomfort and a greater tolerance for lengthy dental procedures, even though nitrous doesn't make any part of your mouth numb. When breathing nitrous, you may feel as though you're floating or drifting, and you'll have an enhanced sense of well being. Your feet and hands may tingle, and you may have warm, fluid sensations throughout your body. You won't be asleep, and your natural reflexes will be completely intact, but you'll be profoundly relaxed, and the procedure will seem to go by very quickly. Once your treatment is complete, you'll breathe pure oxygen for a few minutes to flush the nitrous oxide from your system.

Some minor complications you may experience

Nitrous oxide is completely safe and non-addictive when it's administered as directed by a dental professional. It's very mild, well-tolerated by most people, and quickly eliminated naturally by your body. But sometimes, minor complications arise. For example:

·  You may become chilled and start to shiver. A warm blanket will take care of this problem.

·  You may become nauseated, either during or after the procedure. If you start to feel that you are going to vomit, it's vital that you tell your dental care provider so the nitrous flow can be discontinued and pure oxygen delivered.

·  Excessive sweating sometimes occurs; if it's a problem, the flow of nitrous can be reduced or discontinued entirely.

It's a great answer to anxiety in the dental chair...but it's not for everyone

There are a few situations where nitrous oxide shouldn't be used. They are:

·  during pregnancy

·  if you have an inner ear or an upper respiratory infection

·  if you're extremely claustrophobic or don't like to feel out of control

·  if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

·  if your child has a severe behavior problem or personality disorder A complete medical history is taken prior to administering nitrous oxide sedation. If it's determined to be a suitable solution for your anxiety, you'll be instructed to eat lightly four hours prior to your appointment and have someone drive you home after the procedure. You'll be alert and will probably feel just fine, but your reflexes and judgement may be slightly dimished for a few hours until the nitrous wears off completely.

Sources: The Academy of General Dentistry The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry The American Dental Association


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