What Is Laughing Gas?

Dentist and Patient

You’ve probably heard about “laughing gas,” especially if you feel uneasy around needles or dentists. But what is laughing gas, and is it a viable option for you? Let’s take a closer look: 

What Does Laughing Gas Do? 

Nitrous oxide (or “laughing gas”) earns its nickname from the pleasurable, “warm-and-fuzzy” feeling it gives patients, which sometimes causes brief outbursts of laughter or silliness. The effects vary with each patient, but you can generally expect to feel relaxed, calm, and anxiety-free. 

If you and your dentist decide to use laughing gas, it will be administered via a small mask over the nose. This mask will supply you with a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen. You might experience some heaviness in your limbs as your body shifts to a sedated (but conscious) state. You’ll be awake, with the ability to hear and respond to your surroundings. 

How Laughing Gas Helps Dental Patients

Fear and anxiety can be real obstacles for dental patients; they can even negatively impact health by preventing patients from undergoing vital procedures. Compassionate and accommodating dental professionals can work to overcome this fear by offering conscious sedation options, like laughing gas, that make their patients feel more comfortable and relaxed during treatment. 

For longer, more complex dental procedures, some dentists administer nitrous oxide in combination with other oral and IV sedatives. This type of sedation is known as “combo sedation.” 

What are the benefits of laughing gas? 

  • No needles: You don’t have to worry about any type of injection or needle when receiving nitrous oxide; you just apply the mask to your nose. 
  • It works quickly: You’ll feel the relaxing, pain-killing effects after just two or three minutes.
  • Dosage is easily adjusted: Sedation depth can be adjusted quickly and easily at any time. 
  • No “hangover” feeling: Once the gas supply is stopped, it’s eliminated from your body within three to five minutes. 

A Dental Visit Using Laughing Gas

During your visit, you’ll have the opportunity to speak with your dentist and ask questions before your procedure begins. When the time comes, you’ll begin your nitrous oxide treatment by placing a mask over your nose. Within just a few minutes you’ll begin to feel the effects. 

You can expect to experience sedation in the following stages

  1. A “tingling” sensation in your arms and legs
  2. Warm sensations throughout your body
  3. A floating feeling accompanied by happiness bordering on euphoria

Once you’re in an appropriately sedated state, the hygienist will administer the local anesthetic for your procedure if necessary. Anesthetic is administered by means of an injection but, thanks to the laughing gas, any needle anxiety will be greatly reduced.

Your dentist will continue administering laughing gas as needed throughout your procedure or stop it after the procedure begins, depending on your preference.

Laughing Gas Is Safe and Effective

Laughing gas is widely regarded as a safe and effective anesthetic for dental treatment and has been used for decades as a conscious sedation method. It has few side effects and causes no adverse effects on the lungs, heart, liver, kidneys, or brain.

As with all anesthetics, it’s important that you discuss any health conditions you may have with your dentist before use. For more information on dental anesthetics, or to schedule a free consultation, visit the Lasting Smiles dental care sedation FAQ.

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