Nitrous Oxide Consious Sedation
Exerpted from the California Dental Association
MOVING FORWARD. TOGETHER cda.org
Nitrous oxide (N2O), aka “laughing gas,” is a gas that, combined with oxygen, is sometimes used during dental treatment to ease anxiety. It has no color or smell, and is non-irritating. The gas typically produces pleasant sensations that can help a patient relax. Because it is well tolerated, has a rapid onset, is reversible, can be adjusted in various concentrations, and is non-allergenic, nitrous oxide/oxygen is considered a safe sedative in dentistry. A patient sedated by nitrous oxide is still capable of responding to a question or request.
While most people do not experience any negative side effects of nitrous oxide, a small number of people do. This may occur when the level of nitrous is too high in the gas mixture or from a sudden change in the amount of nitrous oxide inhaled. Negative side effects may include nausea or vomiting, headache, increased sleepiness, and/or excessive sweating or shivering. Headaches can result if a patient does not receive oxygen for at least five minutes after the nitrous oxide has been turned off. The oxygen helps to flush any remaining gas from the lungs and return the patient to a fully awake and alert state. Patients who experience any discomfort while receiving nitrous oxide should inform the dentist immediately.
It is advised to keep meals light prior to dental appointments in which nitrous oxide will be used to reduce the risk of nausea and vomiting. Patients may also be advised to avoid heavy meals for three hours after the appointment. Additionally, some studies have shown that motor skills and attention may be affected for 15 minutes after the use of nitrous oxide. Patients should ask their dentist when it is safe to drive after receiving nitrous oxide.