While nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, can be intimidating and confusing, your general dentist is ready to answer any questions you may have about this option for anesthesia. As any medical treatment is nothing to laugh at, it is important to understand what nitrous oxide is and how it works before deciding with your general dentist if it is the right option for you.
Four things to know about nitrous oxide
Laughing gas will not put a patient to sleep
While certain anesthesia methods are designed to put the patient to sleep during an operation, nitrous oxide will not necessarily do this. According to the ADA, a patient under nitrous oxide will still have the ability to hear their general dentist and respond to any questions. Although it is not going to put a patient to sleep, nitrous oxide will help relax the body and mind. After a few minutes of breathing in the laughing gas through a mask, the body might feel tingly or heavy and the patient will feel light-headed. It can actually help ease any feelings of anxiousness before the procedure.
Nitrous oxide is safe for children
Dental treatments can be intimidating for kids. Laughing gas is a safe and effective way to manage the pain and anxiety that a child might feel during a procedure.
The effects of laughing gas are minimal for kids and adults
If a child is given nitrous oxide, they will feel sleepy, relaxed and perhaps a bit forgetful. They will still be aware of their surroundings, and the general dentist will check frequently to make sure the patient is still awake and alert. The effects should wear off soon after the gas is no longer being administered. It is common for a child to feel nauseated afterward, so be sure to have them drink water or clear fluids to stave off vomiting or to rehydrate them after vomiting.
An adult patient might also be anxious about how they will feel after receiving laughing gas. The effects of nitrous oxide wear off quickly, usually just minutes after the gas is no longer inhaled.
Nitrous oxide will make the patient feel relaxed. The arms and legs might feel tingly or heavy, and light-headedness is likely. Nitrous oxide does not typically have negative or uncomfortable side effects, but if a patient does feel discomfort or pain, they should alert the general dentist immediately. Afterward, headaches or nausea may occur but should also wear off quickly.
It is not right for everyone
Laughing gas is a common and generally safe way to manage pain and anxiety for patients, but it can have serious effects for some people. Healthline warns that some patients may have an allergy to nitrous oxide. The symptoms of an allergic reaction to laughing gas include difficulty breathing, hives and a fever. Pregnant women may not be able to take nitrous oxide for a procedure and should talk to a general dentist about other options.
Medical history can determine if nitrous oxide will not be a good fit for a patient. Patients with a history of mental health illnesses, vitamin B-12 deficiencies, substance use or respiratory illnesses could end up with serious long-term effects from laughing gas. Be sure to discuss any of these conditions with your general dentist before using nitrous oxide.
Nitrous oxide can be a great choice to relieve pain and anxiety during dental treatment, but it is not right for everyone. Talk to your general dentist to see if laughing gas is a good option for your next procedure.
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