Many people feel debilitating anxiety about dental appointments or cannot sit still for a long time during procedures. Sometimes, when dentists put instruments in your mouth, involuntarily gagging can interfere with the procedure. Whether you visit the dentist regularly or not, you have almost certainly heard about laughing gas or, as it is also called, nitrous oxide. 

Often appearing as colorless, Nitrous oxide is also odorless, and primarily tasteless gas that is used in numerous dental procedures to alleviate anxiety and pain during procedures. Before going in for a procedure or appointment at the dentist’s, here are a few things you need to know about how nitrous oxide works in dentistry.

What is Nitrous Oxide/Laughing Gas?

We’ll begin with a little bit of background information. In the mid-1800s, nitrous oxide, a colorless, odorless sweet-smelling inorganic gas, was initially utilized in surgical and dental anesthetics. Today, when used properly, nitrous oxide can be combined with oxygen and administered via inhalation as a safe and effective way to manage pain and anxiety in dentistry. 

A sedation dentist is a dentist who is specially trained to carry out this procedure. This practice can be referred to as “Conscious sedation,” “sedative dentistry,” or “nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation.” These terms are all synonymous, and nitrous oxide inhalation is the most often used gaseous anesthetic globally, with about 70 percent of dental offices utilizing nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation.

What Does Nitrous Oxide Do in Dentistry? (How Does Laughing Gas Work?)

The procedure is pretty easy. The dentist starts by putting a nasal hood over your nose – this allows the N2O-O2 gas mixture to get into your lungs as you inhale. They then turn on the equipment and start pumping the gas mixture into the nasal hood. All the patient has to do is inhale as they normally would.

In about 20 seconds, the gas reaches your brain – this may vary from person to person – and in only a few minutes, it will start inhibiting your pain receptors.

Typically, nitrous oxide-oxygen delivery systems are regulated to a maximum of 70% nitrous oxide and 30% oxygen delivery, ensuring that the patient receives at least 9% more oxygen than ambient room air. 2

Although nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation has an inherent safety margin, at least 12 audible and visual safety measures have been created for delivery systems to help avoid adverse events during administration.

Nitrous oxide is prevalent among dentists for a variety of reasons. For starters, the level of sedation can easily be altered – increased or lowered depending on what procedure you’re getting done. It also acts quickly (in around 2 or 3 minutes) and is entirely harmless to the vital organs. Nitrous oxide is safe to use for kids, patients that have disabilities, and people who often have debilitating anxiety when visiting the dentist. The relaxing and numbing effects are immediate, and the gas administration does not require any needles or injections.

Are There Side Effects Of Nitrous Oxide?

It’s normal to wonder if sedatives will have any side effects on you. In most cases and for most people, nitrous oxide does not have any adverse reactions. However, in the unusual event that a patient is exposed to extremely high levels of nitrous oxide or if it’s administered too quickly. The side effects may include:

  • Headaches
  • Sleepiness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shivering

To avoid leaving patients with headaches, you’ll need to wait for some time after the gas mixture has been turned off. For the first five minutes, the dentist will give you oxygen to regulate your senses and remove any excess nitrous oxide in your lungs. This will help you regain consciousness and alertness.

After the procedure, the dentist may advise you to stay away from any substantial food for at least a few hours to reduce nausea and vomiting. It’s best to ask your dentist markham if you’re fit to drive after the procedure.


Why is Nitrous Oxide Called Laughing Gas?

Nitrous oxide is commonly called laughing gas, not necessarily because it forces you to laugh a lot but because of its intoxicating effects when administered. Nitrous oxide gives a euphoric feeling that removes most of a person’s inhibitions – actions and thoughts- making them more likely to laugh and giggle and chatter a lot.

Is Nitrous Oxide Safe?

Yes, nitrous oxide is a safe and common sedative used for both adults and children. It is mainly required in dental procedures and for people who do not respond to local anesthesia.

If you are looking for sedation dentistry, Markham has numerous dental practices that you can visit, including one of the very best at Greensborough Dental, call us today at 905.209.7222 to request a consultation to see how we can help.