Nitrous oxide has been around for decades, but some patients don’t realize it’s still a great option for dental patients and procedures. Nitrous oxide provides conscious sedation at times when full sedation isn’t required, but a local anesthetic isn’t quite enough. It’s one of the safest and most effective ways to get through challenging dental situations.
What Is Nitrous Oxide?
Nitrous oxide is a colorless, odorless gas that has been used in dentistry for over a century. The gas is administered via a small mask that fits over the nose and is inhaled by the patient. It’s also known as laughing gas because of the sense of relaxation and even euphoria it can create in patients. Because of its many advantages and overall lack of side effects, nitrous oxide is the most commonly used gas-form anesthetic in the world, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
Why Is Dental Sedation Needed?
Sedation is a key part of any dental practice, allowing dentists to perform needed work on patients with anxiety or in cases involving particularly complex, time consuming, or painful procedures. The ADA considers nitrous oxide a safe, effective way to manage anxiety and pain, and conscious sedation is experiencing a resurgence in use as patients and dentists develop a long-range understanding of its benefits.
What Are The Advantages Of Nitrous Oxide?
Nitrous oxide offers a number of advantages that make it a useful tool for your dentist:
- It’s fast-acting, and most patients tolerate it well
- Its effects wear off shortly after it’s administered so there’s no lag time after the procedure as in the case of some other sedatives
- After taking nitrous oxide, patients are still responsive to questions from their dentist and can be fully engaged with their care
- Most importantly, nitrous oxide is considered safe for children and adults, and its use in children is approved by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
Who Are The Best Candidates For Nitrous Oxide?
Nitrous oxide is a good choice for a range of patients who experience anxiety or who are unable to stay still in the dentist’s chair. Some of the most likely candidates for nitrous oxide sedation include:
- Children who are unable to sit still in the dental chair–especially in cases where more complex dental work is needed
- Special needs patients of all ages who are anxious or unable to be still during treatment
- Adults who have anxiety about dental visits or who need particularly complex work that requires a longer visit
- Patients who have a strong gag reflex that can impede dental care
- Patients who have a fear of local anesthesia or intolerance for needles. In most cases, a local anesthetic such as novocaine is still needed during treatment, but nitrous oxide can help patients for whom local anesthesia causes anxiety or excessive pain
Is Nitrous Oxide Safe?
When you think about it, nitrous oxide actually increases patient safety in many cases. For so many dental procedures, it’s essential that the patient be still for the process to be safe and effective. If a patient is in danger of harming themselves or others, nitrous oxide is often the best solution.
The fact that the patient remains awake and responsive during treatment is another key safety factor. According to the AAPD, the patient’s cough reflex remains in place while under conscious sedation, which also contributes to patient safety.
Your dentist receives advanced training in administering nitrous oxide, and is licensed under state law. Before treatment, your dentist will complete a patient evaluation, checking baseline vital signs and reviewing allergies and medical history. Staff is also trained in Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers in case of an emergency.
In a small percentage of patients adverse reactions can occur, including nausea, vomiting and headache. But according to the AAPD, there are no reports of major injury because of nitrous oxide when administered properly.
Ask Your Dentist If Nitrous Oxide Makes Sense For You Or Your Child
Many patients are just fine with a local anesthetic, and some procedures don’t require any anesthesia at all. But in cases where anxiety or behavioral issues can get in the way of a patient getting the dental care he or she needs, nitrous oxide is an important option. Because nitrous oxide has been in use for more than a century, its effects have been thoroughly studied and observed. If you or a loved one has anxiety or another condition that keeps you from getting the care you need, contact Hall Family Dentistry today to discuss the best option for you!