What is Laughing Gas?

What is Laughing Gas?

Dental anxiety is a real concern for adults and children alike. A single bad experience as a child can create a lasting, yet needless, impression of trips to the dentist — an inauspicious start to lifelong oral hygiene habits. Modern dentistry is actually essentially painless, but dulled nerves don’t help when new experiences are intimidating. Nitrous oxide — better known as laughing gas — not only lessens pain, it can create a positive and comfortable experience without anxiety, and it gives you an option that wears off almost immediately after the mask is removed. Let’s learn more about this dentist’s office basic.

What is nitrous oxide?

So-called laughing gas is a chemical compound made of two nitrogen molecules bonded to an oxygen atom. At room temperature, nitrous oxide is a gas this is colorless and not flammable. As well as lessening pain, laughing gas creates a sense of calm and well-being, a welcome sensation for those who feel anxious about dental procedures. Common dental use dispenses two parts nitrous oxide with one-part oxygen, a concentration level that is not toxic.

After breathing laughing gas for about five minutes, you’ll start to feel very good, perhaps a little giddy. (It is called laughing gas, after all.) We may not use nitrous oxide in sufficient strength to completely block your pain, except perhaps in procedures on your gums, so it’s possible you may receive other anesthetics. Perhaps the best aspect of laughing gas is that it’s safe for virtually everyone, including children.   

How does laughing gas work?

Surprisingly, though nitrous oxide is a safe sedative that behaves in predictable ways, how it works is a bit of a mystery. There seems to be a wide range of effects, but when used as a dental sedative and anesthetic, none of these effects lasts much more than a few minutes after you stop breathing the gas. Most of your senses may seem a little repressed.

The first stage of effects is often a tingling in your arms and legs, with perhaps a feeling of vibration. You’ll then feel warm, and the euphoria and well-being should begin. You may notice that your hearing changes, turning into a droning that may sound artificial.

If it gets hard to keep your eyes open, or if you feel nauseated, you’re getting a little over-sedated. Tell your Sweet Tooth Children’s Dentistry caregiver about this and we’ll lessen the amount of nitrous oxide you’re receiving. The effects dissipate quickly.

What are the cons of laughing gas?

Not everyone is comfortable with the feelings that nitrous oxide creates. Some people are more prone to nausea, while others aren’t sedated enough at the concentrations used for dental procedures. Laughing gas is administered through a mask that fits over your nose, so if you have a cold or if you predominantly breathe through your mouth, inhaling through your nose isn’t an option.

The breathing mask could also make you or your child a little claustrophobic. That sensation usually passes once the effects of the laughing gas begin.

The benefits of using nitrous oxide to ease anxiety over dental procedures vastly outweigh the potential drawbacks. If you or your child worries about the dental care experience, laughing gas may be just the breath of fresh air you need.

Author
Sweet Tooth Children's Dentistry

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