Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas)
Most children are calm, comfortable and confident in a pediatric dental office. Sometimes, however, a child may feel anxious before or during treatment. If your child needs more support than a gentle, caring manner to feel comfortable, nitrous oxide is a safe, effective agent used to calm a child’s fear of the dental visit and enhance effective communication. Additionally, it works well for children whose gag reflex interferes with dental treatment.
Nitrous oxide is administered as a blend of two gases—oxygen and nitrous oxide. A fitted mask is placed over the nose and, as the patient breathes normally, uptake occurs through the lungs. At the end of treatment, it is eliminated after a short period of breathing oxygen and has no lingering effects.
Your child will smell a faint sweet aroma and experience a sense of well-being and relaxation. Since it may produce a feeling of giddiness or euphoria, nitrous oxide is often called “laughing gas.” Children sometimes report dreaming and their arms and legs may feel “tingly.” It raises the pain threshold and may even make the time appear to pass quickly. If your child is worried by the sights, sounds or sensations of dental treatment, he or she may respond more positively with the use of nitrous oxide.
Nitrous oxide is considered to be very safe and is usually well tolerated. It has a rapid onset, is reversible, can be adjusted in various concentrations and is non-allergenic. Your child remains fully conscious—keeps all natural reflexes—when breathing nitrous oxide and oxygen. Your child will be capable of responding to a question or request. Nitrous oxide rarely has side effects, though occasionally some patients may experience minor nausea, headache and constipation. Your pediatric dentist will help you determine if nitrous oxide is appropriate for your child.
Tell your pediatric dentist about any respiratory condition that makes breathing through the nose difficult for your child, as it may limit the effectiveness of nitrous oxide. Also inform your pediatric dentist if your child is taking any medication on the day of the appointment.
Pediatric dentists know that all children are not alike. Every treatment is tailored to your child as an individual. Nitrous oxide may not be effective for some children, especially those who have severe anxiety, nasal congestion, or discomfort wearing a nasal mask. Your pediatric dentist will review your child’s medical history, level of anxiety, and dental treatment needs and inform you if nitrous oxide is recommended for your child. Pediatric dentists have comprehensive specialty training and can also offer other sedation methods that are right for your child.