In order to get certified to give patients nitrous oxide (commonly called laughing gas), I have to administer it several times to prove my competence.
Last Friday afternoon, I was able to give a patient nitrous oxide and literally change his perception of dentistry.
He loved it. I asked him about his dental fear and he said something like, “You know when you’re in an airplane and there’s a sudden rush of unexpected turbulance, you grab onto the handles of your seat. That’s how I am at the dentist.”
On Friday though, he said he felt great. He was telling jokes in the dental chair and having a great time. He said that the nitrous oxide made him feel great, he said he felt like he was drunk.
He was a fairly young guy that had simply avoided going to the dentist and ended up with a few lost teeth and a lot of teeth in bad shape. Nitrous oxide has given him the ability to overcome his dental anxiety and sit in the chair.
Nitrous Oxide in Dentistry
As you can see in this picture above, nitrous oxide is given to a patient through a mask that is placed over the nose. In addition to nitrous oxide, we run oxygen into the mask so that the patient is always getting more oxygen than they would just by breathing in regular air.
An advantage of nitrous oxide over other forms of sedation is that it works pretty fast. Within a few minutes, the patient is relaxed. Also, when you have finished your dental procedure, the recovery is fairly rapid as well. You are able to drive home after the appointment since you don’t remain drowsy.
Is Nitrous Oxide Dangerous?
Nitrous oxide is safe when it is administered with adequate oxygen. Although side effects are fairly rare, the most common side effect of nitrous oxide is nausea.
Nitrous oxide may be harmful with long-term exposure. This doesn’t really apply to patients, it’s more for those people who work at dental offices and get exposed to it every day for years.
Regarding possible long-term negative effects of nitrous oxide, Pinkham’s Pediatric Dentistry textbook states, “Retrospective survey studies of dental office personnel who were exposed to trace levels of nitrous oxide suggest a possible association with nan increased incidence of spontaneous abortions, congenital malformations, certain cancers, liver disease, kidney disease, and neurologic disease.”
Nitrous oxide can help many patients overcome their dental anxiety. I have a patient with a lot of dental fear that gets nitrous oxide every time he comes in. He loves how it calms him and allows him to get his needed dental work done.
Do you have any questions or comments about nitrous oxide in dentistry? I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!