What is nitrous oxide and why do dentists use it?

If the thought of going to the dentist gives you anxiety, or if you’re already gagging just thinking about the dental instruments prodding around your mouth, you’re not alone. Some of us need a little help when it comes to relaxing at the dentist. Thankfully, dentists provide nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, to help keep patients relaxed during dental treatments. Here we explain everything you need to know about nitrous oxide and why your Lakewood, CO dentist might recommend it for your dental treatments.

What is Nitrous Oxide?

Nitrous oxide is a safe and effective sedative agent that your dental clinic in Lakewood uses to help you relax during your dental appointment. You’ll inhale nitrogen gas mixed with oxygen through a small mask. By ever-so-slightly slowing down your nervous system, it is very safe and can make dental treatments easier if you suffer from dental anxiety.

How Does it Help?

Nitrous oxide dentists in Lakewood recommend laughing gas because it is the best solution to keep you relaxed and comfortable during your dental treatment. Its relaxing effects are only temporary, which also makes it effective if you wish to return to your normal daily activities following your dental treatment. 

You won’t be put to sleep when you use nitrous oxide. Instead, it simply helps you undergo your dental procedures without worry. In fact, while using nitrous oxide, you’ll still be able to hear your dentist and answer questions, as well as follow instructions such as a request to open your mouth wider or turn your head.

What are the Side Effects?

Dentists and patients alike prefer laughing gas to other sedative options as it has very few side effects. Most people will experience a tingling sensation, sleepiness and a feeling of heaviness in their arms and legs. However, there are some other possible side effects, including:

  • Headache
  • Shivering and/or excessive sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sleepiness

Once the gas is turned off, your dentist will provide oxygen to reduce the risk of headaches. This will help clear any remaining nitrous oxygen from your lungs so you can begin to feel alert quickly. It’s also recommended you avoid a big meal before treatment to reduce risk for nausea or vomiting.

Who Should Use Nitrous Oxide?

Dentists will recommend nitrous oxide for patients who:

  • Suffer from dental-related anxiety
  • Are fearful of medical treatments
  • Have anxiety issues
  • Are uncooperative
  • Have special health care needs
  • Have severe gag reflexes
  • Don’t respond adequately to local anesthesia
  • Need to undergo lengthy dental procedures

Laughing gas can make appointments easier in all of these situations. Parents might also consider nitrous oxide for their children, especially if they have to undergo lengthy procedures, or they tend to have trouble sitting still.

Who Shouldn’t Use It?

There are some patients who should not use laughing gas, including women in their first trimester of pregnancy. Patients with the following conditions should also avoid it:

  • Respiratory illnesses like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Vitamin B-12 deficiency
  • Enzyme condition methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase deficiency
  • Some mental health conditions or a history of substance abuse

If you are interested in nitrous oxide for your next dental appointment, speak with Dr. Elizabeth Turner here and she’ll help determine if it’s a good choice for you. 

For more information about relaxation dental services in Lakewood, check out this page here.

About the Author

Dr. Elizabeth Turner is a whole-health, family dentist in Lakewood, CO who provides general, restorative, and cosmetic dental care. She focuses on the mouth-body connection and helps her patients smile confidently, breathe clearer, and live healthier lives. 

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