What Is the Role of Nitrous Oxide in Dentistry?

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what is the role of nitrous oxide in dentistry

Sedation dentistry helps people who have had negative experiences with a dentist or who experience intense emotion and anxiety when considering dental treatment to overcome those experiences, emotions and anxiety. There are several groups of people who may benefit from sedation dentistry:

  • People with dental phobia or anxiety
  • People who are afraid of or anxious about needles
  • People triggered by dentistry-related sights, sounds, smells and vibrations
  • If you have extremely sensitive teeth
  • If you have difficulty remaining still for as long as you will be receiving treatment
  • If you’re scheduled to undergo multiple procedures in a single appointment
  • People who have had negative reactions to local anesthesia in the past
  • Patients or any age with special needs making it difficult to remain calm or still during treatment

Sedation dentistry is not a one-size-fits-all or off-the-shelf solution for dental anxiety or fear. Rather, sedation dentistry is available in several different formats to allow your dentist in Turlock to tailor the level of relaxation precisely to your needs. Sedation is available in four formats, from weakest to strongest: nitrous oxide (also called laughing gas), oral sedation, intravenous sedation and general anesthesia.

What is nitrous oxide?

Nitrous oxide near you is a colorless and odourless gas. When inhaled while you are undergoing dental treatment, it slows your body’s reaction time and produces a calm and euphoric sense of relaxation. Laughing gas produces the mildest form of sedation available from your dentist and offers the key advantages of both taking effect quickly and wearing off quickly.

In some cases, oxygen is administered along with nitrous oxide. In other cases, a dentist near you may also administer oxygen alone after the treatment has been completed (and after the administration of nitrous oxide in Turlock has ended). That oxygen will help to clear the lingering nitrous oxide from your body and help you to regain alertness and avoid developing a headache. People typically regain their alertness within approximately 15 minutes. Most patients who receive sedation dentistry with nitrous oxide are able to drive themselves home after regaining their alertness. That is not true about the other methods of sedation dentistry. People who receive sedation dentistry via oral sedation, IV sedation or general anesthesia should not drive themselves home.

To avoid experiencing nausea and vomiting related to the inhalation of nitrous oxide, your dentist will instruct you to eat only light meals in the eight hours period before your treatment and during the three hours period after your treatment. Complications related to the use of nitrous oxide are rare, though some people do experience an allergic reaction to laughing gas. The symptoms of an allergy to nitrous oxide include fever, chills, breathing difficulty, hives and wheezing. Before making any decision to provide sedation dentistry, your dentist will take a detailed medical history, including asking whether you have any allergies.

If you have experienced any adverse reactions to any form of sedation dentistry in the past, be sure to let your dentist know while your treatment plan is being developed. There are several groups of people who are not good candidates for using nitrous oxide: women in the first trimester of pregnancy; patients with a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) or other respiratory illnesses; if you have a Vitamin B-12 or methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase deficiency; if you have a history of substance abuse; or if you have a history of mental health issues.

If you are anxious about pending dental treatment and want advice about how to ease your anxiety or to minimize discomfort, contact your dentist to ask for available sedation dentistry options.