dental assistant providing sedation to boy in dental chair

What is Laughing Gas? What Parents Should Know

Laughing Gas: What Parents Should Know

    What is laughing gas and how will it affect my child during dental treatment you may ask? Nitrous Oxide, or better known as laughing gas, has actually been around and has been used safely and predictably for centuries. It is a gas that is inhaled through a nasal mask that is colorless and with a faint sweet smell, mixed with about 50% or more of oxygen when delivered. We can add virtually any scent to the mask to make it a fun and exciting experience for your little ones and they get a kick from choosing from our many flavors such as cotton candy and peanut butter. For adults, we can even add calming essential oil scents such as eucalyptus or lavender to give you a spa-like relaxing dental experience. 

    Nitrous Oxide is one of the safest medicines in dentistry and has very few contraindications. Since its use and safety profile, there have been no recorded fatalities or serious injury when used within its recommended dosing.  It has two mechanisms to both reduce anxiety (anxiolytic) and reduce pain threshold (analgesia) and works by activating the GABAA pathways. It can also help suppress the gag reflex. Its effect is predictable and effective for the majority of the population. The patient is able to respond well to verbal commands, has all the protective reflexes and experiences a more relaxed and euphoric sense of feeling. There are no opioids, general anesthesia, deep sedation and your child is not “asleep” when using laughing gas in our dental office, so there is minimal risk. It is works quickly and also has a recovery time of only 2-3 minutes on average as it is insoluble in our body and excreted quickly. 

    Due to its ease of use, ease of titration, and safety profile, it is a great option to use for children who need to undergo dental work in an office setting to make their experience a fun and enjoyable one in addition to the behavior management techniques our pediatric dentist performs. Most children are excited to use our “ice cream air” and report a relaxed, warm and tingling sensation. Since it lowers pain in addition to anxiety, most children are completely comfortable even during more invasive procedures such as extractions. 

    There are some considerations as well, since laughing gas may not be suitable for all children or adults. The contraindications include patients who have claustrophobia, recent middle ear surgery, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, current upper respiratory infection, severe emotional disturbances, drug related dependencies, treatment with bleomycin sulfate, methylenetetrahydrofolate deficiency (MTFR), Cobalamin (vitamin B-12) deficiency, and first trimester of pregnancy. Some insurances may not cover its use, so it is important to consider the financial aspect as well, although our office prides on making it an affordable option for all of our patients. The most common mild side effect we see with children is nausea especially if the child ate a heavy or greasy meal right before treatment, so our dentists would recommend keeping meals prior to treatments light. 

    Speak to your dentist to see if Nitrous Oxide is right for you or your child. It has many wonderful benefits such as increasing tolerance for longer appointments, reducing the gagging reflex, aiding in the treatment of mentally/ physically disabled children, reducing pain, enhancing communication and cooperation, reducing overall dental anxiety and making sure your child has a great dental experience!