Ask the Dentist: Is Nitrous Oxide Safe?

Ask the Dentist: Is Nitrous Oxide Safe?

Many of our patients wonder about the efficacy and safety of nitrous oxide, also known as “laughing gas,” as a sedation method for dental procedures. Nitrous oxide is indeed a safe sedation method. Read on for details on how and why it is used.

Using Nitrous Oxide in Dental Procedures

When it comes to sedation dentistry, nitrous oxide is considered to be the least sedating option available to patients. It is used for a variety of dental procedures; its use hinges on a patient’s individual fear and discomfort. Some patients only require this intervention for larger procedures, while others benefit from nitrous oxide sedation for regular cleanings. It is particularly useful for patients who experience intense anxiety at the dentist, and for those who have a low pain tolerance, an extreme gag reflex, or very sensitive teeth.

Administering nitrous oxide is simple and straightforward. Patients inhale a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide gas through a mask that is placed over the nose. The effect of the gas is pleasurable; patients relax and feel more at ease with the procedure, but they remain awake and able to recall the memory of the procedure after it is finished. When a procedure is completed, as the experts over at Colgate explain, “a patient needs to receive oxygen for at least five minutes to avoid a headache. The oxygen purges any remaining gas from the lungs while aiding the patient in becoming alert.”

Nitrous Oxide Side Effects and Risks

The risks of receiving nitrous oxide are very low; side effects are generally the result of a patient receiving too much of the gas for their weight. Side effects could include things like nausea, sweating, headaches, or fatigue. Most people can drive after having nitrous oxide administered during a dental procedure, but this is dependent on the length of the procedure and your dentist’s policies.

There are some people for whom nitrous oxide is not a good option. Those who struggle with COPD, women in the first trimester of pregnancy, and other groups with certain health histories or limitations may not be able to take advantage of this form of sedation dentistry. Your dentist should complete a comprehensive health history and have a strong understanding of your current health before recommending that you try nitrous oxide or any other type of sedation dentistry.


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