Laughing Gas—Is it Right for You? - Holladay Family Dental
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Laughing Gas—Is it Right for You?

Laughing Gas—Is it Right for You?

You may have heard people mention “laughing” gas in passing conversations but what is it really? Does it make you laugh? Is it safe? If you are like most people, you have heard about laughing gas but don’t know much about what is it or how it works. Hopefully, this article will give you the info you need to know if laughing gas as a dental sedation is right for you.

What is laughing gas? Why is it called laughing gas?

Laughing gas is nitrous oxide, a sedation agent that is mixed with oxygen. It is a colorless, odorless, non-irritating gas that is delivered through a small mask that fits over your nose. It is called laughing gas because it relaxes people and produces, almost immediately a euphoric, happy feeling. Some people actually giggle when on the gas.

Nitrous oxide was discovered over 150 years ago and is widely used, especially in pediatric dentistry.

Is it safe? Should it be used for children?

It is considered one of the safest methods of dental sedation because it can take effect almost immediately and be easily adjusted. Most people who try laughing gas do well with it. Once the dentist turns the laughing gas off, its effects wear off within 5 minutes.

Yes, laughing gas can be used for children. Some children can tolerate dental procedures like minor fillings with laughing gas only, even without a local anesthesia like a Novocain shot.

Other forms of dental sedation include oral sedation and IV sedation. Both can take hours to fully wear off and can have other side effects such as headaches, dizziness, and nausea.

Who should use laughing gas?

Laughing gas is ideal for:

  • children or adults that are fearful of going to the dentist
  • children who have difficulty holding still
  • children or adults with special needs
  • children or adults with long procedures

Laughing gas can be very helpful for people with anxiety about going to the dentist. It can help people to get procedures done, like fillings, that are important to complete for their overall health. Laughing gas is not recommended for women in the first trimester of pregnancy or individuals with a history of drug abuse.

How does it work? What does it feel like?

The dentist gives you a mask that fits over your nose. You breathe in the nitrous oxide. Five minutes later, you feel relaxed and happy. You are still conscious and can communicate with the doctor during your filling or procedure. Some people describe their arms and legs as being tingly. Others describe them limbs as feeling heavy. Nitrous oxide has some interesting effects on the brain. It can block parts of the brain that signal pain, which reduces the pain that you feel. After the procedure is over, the dentist turns off the nitrous oxide. After five minutes, the effects have worn off. You are safe to drive home.

Only 0.5% of patients experience side effects like nausea. This effect can be minimized by eating a light meal before the procedure.