What is nitrous oxide sedation dentistry? Is it safe?

It is generally observed that people are phobic to go for any dental treatment for the fear of pain. Sedation during the treatment takes away the anxiety of pain and any discomfort during the dental procedures.

Sedation is used for every simple procedure in dentistry right from tooth cleaning to surgeries. Patients are awake but feel relaxed under the influence of sedation.

There are many levels of sedation that are generally administered on dental patients. Minimal, moderate, deep and complete general anesthesia. It is up to the doctor’s discretion to administer which type of sedation based on the severity of pain and time taken for the procedure. These sedation's are basically used to create numbness in the area of treatment to relieve pain and discomfort that is caused during the procedure.

Moderate or Oral sedation is normally given through a pill like Halcion or valium. This is most common type of anesthesia given to make people actually fall asleep during dentistry. Deep sedation is given by inducing anesthetic drug through veins. General anesthesia is given for difficult and time taking procedures.

Nitrous Oxide Sedation

It is the Minimal and Inhaled sedation is given by making the patient breathe nitrous oxide or "laughing gas" -- combined with oxygen through a mask that's placed over your nose. Inhalation of this gas helps you relax. The dentist can control the intensity of sedation required and the amount of Nitrous oxide you inhale based on the time required for the dental procedure.

This is a safe method because after the dental procedure the gas tends to wear off quickly. Many patients can drive back home safely after the dentist appointment.

Nitrous oxide can be safely used with a combination of Oxygen (O2). Hence the laughing gas is known as N2O-O2. This combination usually contains 30% Nitrous oxide and 70% Oxygen. If the required mix of 50% oxygen to 50% nitrous oxide is also used.

How is N2O-O2 administered

An equipment which consists of the supply of compressed gases and apparatus is used to produce the desired mix of N2O-O2 in the desired quantities. Flow meters and pressure gauges help the administrator to control the flow of gases.

The desired N2O-O2 mix is fed through a tube to which a nasal hood or cannula is attached. This hood is put over your nose. This has two tubes attached on sides which serve as one for “gas in” and one for “gas out”. All the patient has to do is breathe normally. The rest is taken care by the doctor.

Advantages of Nitrous Oxide

  • This works very fast and reaches the brain within 20 seconds and starts working killing the pain within 2 - 3 minutes.

  • This can be administered based on the need. There is no fixed duration. You can also switch on and off the machine as per the requirement. This also prevents accidental overdoses.

  • There are no reported after effects. Because the gas is eliminated within a short span of time. Recovery time is very less.

  • You can drive home safely and don’t need an escort.

  • This also acts well on soft tissues like gums very effectively.

  • This type of sedation has very less side effects. Very safe to use.

There are no proven allergies to use N2O. Only when a patient has cold or come other respiratory problem and has difficulty in breathing through nose, an alternative must be used. Otherwise, it is proven very safe to be used even in kids without any contradictions.