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Should I Use Nitrous Oxide for Dental Treatment: Pros of Using Nitrous Oxide

If you are afraid of going to the dentist then you have probably considered different options to help you relax and cope better during your appointments. Being actually put to sleep, known as deep sedation, can be very expensive and requires a lot of preparation which may not be suitable for most. But you are also too afraid to go through your visit while being fully awake. So using nitrous oxide gas, also referred to as laughing gas, to help you relax and calm down a bit may sound like the perfect compromise between these two options. But does nitrous oxide gas really work? Or are you better off either without it or by being put to actual sleep?

Pros of Using Nitrous Oxide Gas

1. Nitrous oxide is very safe and its effects are easily reversible. The reason using nitrous oxide gas is so popular with dentists is because it is very safe, works very quickly and wears off just as quickly.

  • Nitrous oxide is extremely safe and it literally has no risks. In fact it is even safer than the injections you are about to get to numb you up, as even the local anesthetic is riskier.
  • Nitrous oxide gas works very quickly and starts to relax you within just a few minutes of inhaling it.
  • Similarly, its effect wear off and vanish just minutes after you are done inhaling the gas. Meaning that when you are done with your treatment you are free to leave right away.

2. There are no special instructions or precautions required to use nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide gas works very rapidly and clears your lungs within minutes after you have stopped breathing it. Once the gas has been discontinued you get back to your normal state within minutes. This means you can drive yourself back and forth to your dental visit and can resume normal functions and go about your daily activities immediately afterwards. And there is no additional time off required for using nitrous oxide gas. All other sedation techniques including IV sedation, general anesthesia and per-medication with anti-anxiety pills require someone to transport and escort you to your visit.

3. It can really help you feel relaxed. Nitrous oxide gas can help many fearful patients relax during their dental appointments. The gas is an analgesic that depresses your nervous system to give you a euphoric and relaxed sensation where you might even find yourself laughing out loud, thus the nickname laughing gas. It basically helps take the edge off during your appointment. When under the influence of the gas, you will still be aware of all of your surroundings and you can still respond to your dentist’s commands. This can be beneficial since your dentist can instruct you to open, close or move accordingly to help expedite the treatment. And being awake can also help you gradually concur your fears of going to the dentist given since you are relaxed but still awake and aware of what is going on surrounding you. Many of the newer patients start off using the nitrous oxide gas to get them through there more difficult first few visits and then stop having to rely on it once they’ve concurred their initial fear of going to the dentist.

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Should I Use Nitrous Oxide for Dental Treatment: How to Decide?

Should I Use Nitrous Oxide for Dental Treatment: How to Decide?

How to Decide?

Answer the following questions:

  1. On a scale of 1 to 10 you are scared of the dentist a 7 or an 8?
  2. You are supposed to have some moderately difficult dental treatment done, like a root canal or a tooth extraction or two?
  3. You haven’t been to the dentist in a while and need a little boost?
  4. You can handle a feeling a little pressure and hearing some noises so long as you don’t feel any pain?
  5. You would like to be able to use this method again in the future if necessary?
  6. You don’t have any serious breathing issues like chronic COPD?
  7. You like to try and find a way to concur your fear of the dentist… eventually?

If you answered “yes” to most of the above questions then you are probably a good candidate for using nitrous oxide gas at the dentist.

If you answered “no” to most of the above questions then maybe you should either be put to sleep or just stay awake and try to tough it out!

Final Thought

We are a fan of using nitrous oxide gas for those fearful patients who need to a little extra to help calm their nerves down just a bit. There are a lot of favorable things about using nitrous oxide gas, it is safe, effective, easy to administer and not very expensive. And since you are still awake you can start to build up your courage so you don’t have to rely on it for all future visits. It also works well for semi-cooperative children who allow their dentist to hook them up to the gas when requiring more difficult treatments.

If you can’t handle feeling or hearing anything at all while at the dentist, then it is doubtful that nitrous oxide gas alone will get the job done. You probably should consider either deeper sedation techniques and actually being put to sleep or try combining the nitrous oxide gas with a sedative pre-medication such as a Valium to increase the level of your sedation. If you are having all four of your wisdom teeth removed or placing a handful of dental implants along with extractions, then nitrous oxide gas alone may not be enough to get you through these visits. There will be a lot of drilling and pulling going on here and even the bravest patients will need some type of sedation. You might just end up being better off going with a higher level of sedation for these particularly challenging procedures.

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Should I Use Nitrous Oxide for Dental Treatment: Pros of NOT Using Nitrous Oxide

Should I Use Nitrous Oxide for Dental Treatment: Pros of NOT Using Nitrous Oxide

1. An extra expense. You almost always have to pay a little extra for the use of nitrous oxide gas. The gas itself is pricey and it does take your dentist a little extra preparation time to administer the gas to you as well. Paying for the gas may be justified for the more difficult procedures or if you haven’t been to the dentist in a while. But it can start to add up if you want to rely on using it for every single procedure.

2. Not everyone responds equally well to the nitrous oxide gas. Although rare, nausea and vomiting can occur when inhaling nitrous oxide gas especially if the dosage or percentage of the nitrous oxide to oxygen is set too high. And not everyone will feel the gas working the same way. Some patients claim that they hardly feel a difference while others feel completely relaxed and at ease with it. Patients such as those with chronic COPD may not be able to function well with reduced levels of oxygen and may not be able to breath comfortably when on nitrous oxide. Should the nitrous oxide interfere with your breathing then have your dentist adjust the dosage and if that still doesn’t resolve your breathing issue then you probably shouldn’t use it.

3. You are still fully aware of your surroundings. While nitrous oxide gas can do a good job of helping most patients relax, it does not actually put you to sleep. Nitrous oxide provides only a minimal level of sedation and relaxes you more than puts you to sleep. This means that you will still hear and feel everything that is going on around you. The drilling, the pulling and the noises will all still be there. So if your goal is to calm down a little bit then the gas should work just fine. But if you can’t handle any noise or feel anything at all during your treatment, then you probably should also look into more definitive deeper sedation alternatives such as IV sedation or general anesthesia.

NEXT >> How to Decide?

Should I Use Nitrous Oxide for Dental Treatment: Pros of Using Nitrous Oxide