The goal sought when nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is used is to eliminate dental anxiety, making the patient more comfortable while the dentist is able to more effectively complete the planned dental care procedure. Consult with your dentist to see if this procedure would be right for you.
When nitrous oxide is administered a small rubber inhaler will be placed over the patient's nose and adjusted so that the patient is comfortable. At this time, the patient will be breathing 100% oxygen. Once the patient is comfortable breathing oxygen, the dentist will gradually introduce nitrous oxide. Over the next three to five minutes, the amount of nitrous will slowly be increased.
The signs and symptoms that most patients experience when receiving nitrous include an initial feeling of lightheadedness, which gradually leads to an all-over feeling of warmth. Many patients mention a comfortable "vibrating" or "humming" sensation. It is common to feel one's fingertips and hands become numb. This same sensation may develop in the mouth - a benefit to the dentist (and patient) during the dental care treatment. Some patients may mention that their arms and legs feel "very light". Interestingly, other patients will say that their arms and legs feel "so heavy I can't even move them". If either of these occurs to the patient, it is perfectly normal. The individual may notice that they are perspiring a little, too. This is a normal effect of nitrous oxide and oxygen dentistry.
The dentist will talk with the patient throughout the procedure and the patient will be able to respond without any problem. This is a major advantage, and a safety feature, of dentistry using nitrous oxide. If, at any time during the procedure, the patient feels they are getting too much nitrous oxide, or if they begin to feel uncomfortable, they should tell the dentist immediately and within seconds the dentist can adjust the flow of gases, and the patient will feel more comfortable again.
At the conclusion of the appointment, the patient will once again receive 100% oxygen (for a minimum of three to five minutes). At the end of this time, the patient should feel absolutely back to normal. If they feel even a little bit sedated, the dentist should give the patient oxygen for a few more minutes. Most dentists permit the fully-recovered nitrous oxide patient to leave their dental office unescorted and to resume their normal activities.
Nitrous oxide is highly effective in the management of mild to moderate levels of dental anxiety. It is also an excellent technique in patients who are extreme gaggers; nitrous oxide usually eliminates or minimizes gagging in most patients.
Finally, nitrous oxide is highly recommended for apprehensive patients who have medical problems such as angina pectoris, patients who have had a heart attack, or patients with high blood pressure, asthma or epilepsy.
Inhalation dentistry should not be used with patients who are claustrophobic or with patients who are unable to breathe through their nose. Please discuss this with your dentist before treatment using nitrous oxide.