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
· during pregnancy
· if you have an inner ear or an upper
· if you're extremely claustrophobic or don't
like to feel out of control
· if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary
· 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