Nitrous Oxide is the technical name but many know it as laughing gas or happy gas. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is simply a gas which you can breathe in. It has no colour, smell, and doesn’t irritate.
So how does Nitrous work?
Depending on the concentration and length of administration of laughing gas, four levels of sedation can be experienced (after an initial feeling of light-headedness)
- a tingling sensation, especially in the arms and legs, or a feeling of vibration quickly followed by
- warm sensations, and
- a feeling of well-being, euphoria and/or floating. During heavier sedation, hearing may dissolve into a constant, electronic-like throbbing.
- At a deeper level of sedation again, sleepiness, difficulty to keep one’s eyes open or speak (“dream”) can occur. Should nausea set in, it means you’re definitely oversedated!
If you experience any unpleasant symptoms, let your dentist know so that they can adjust the percentage of N2O or simply take the mask off.
How is nitrous oxide administered?
Dr Mendelsohn will set the Guages to deliver the desired dose of N2O-O2 mix for each patient individually this is fed through a tube to which a nasal hood or cannula is attached. This hood is put over your nose. All you have to do now is breathe normally through your nose.
What are the advantages of nitrous oxide?
- Nitrous oxide works very rapidly – it reaches the brain within 20 seconds, and relaxation and pain-killing properties develop after 2 or 3 minutes.
- The depth of sedation can be altered from moment to moment, Dr Mendelsohn to increase or decrease the depth of sedation. Other sedation techniques don’t allow for this. For example, with IV sedation, it’s easy to deepen the level of sedation, but difficult to lessen it. Whereas with laughing gas, the effects are almost instant.
- Other sleep dentistry techniques have a fixed duration of action (because the effects of pills or intravenous drugs last for a specific time span), whereas gas can be given for the exact time span it’s needed for. It can also be switched off when not needed and then switched on again (though to avoid a roller-coaster effect, you shouldn’t do this too abruptly).
- There’s no “hangover” effect – the gas is eliminated from the body within 3 to 5 minutes after the gas supply is stopped. You can safely drive home and don’t need an escort.
- For certain procedures – those involving gums rather than teeth (e. g. deep cleaning) – it may be possible to use nitrous instead of local anaesthesia. N2O acts as a painkiller on soft tissues such as gums. However, its pain-relieving effects vary a lot from person to person and can’t be relied upon.
- No injection is required. In cases of very severe needle phobia, getting laughing gas first can help you feel relaxed enough to allow the needle required for IV sedation to be inserted in your arm or hand. The very deep state of sedation achievable through IV sedation will then allow you to accept local anaesthetic.
- Inhalation sedation is very safe. It has very few side effects and the drugs used have no ill effects on the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain.
- Inhalation sedation has been found to be very effective in eliminating or at least minimizing severe gagging.
If you are interested in using Nitrous at your next appointment, just tell Dr Mendelsohn on arrival and it can be arranged.