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Leaving the Light On: What to Expect Under Nitrous Oxide Sedation

July 14, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — cordiniperio @ 8:43 pm
Four gas cylinders.

Many dental patients have undergone nitrous oxide sedation. Commonly called “laughing gas,” it will quickly decrease awareness, reduce stress, slow reaction time, inhibit the gag reflex, and make a procedure much more comfortable. All these factors lead to a patient able to tolerate procedures that could otherwise cause much distress.

Unlike intravenous or general anesthesia, nitrous oxide is not meant to put patients to sleep or leave them unconscious. It is among the safest forms of sedation available and can be viable for patients with sensitivities to other forms of medical numbing.

What to Expect When Receiving Nitrous Oxide

Upon sitting in the dentist’s chair prepared for the procedure, the patient receives nitrous oxide mixed with oxygen by breathing normally through a mask over the nose. The gas smells mildly sweet. The effects should begin within minutes.

The experience likely involves lightheadedness. Patients may experience a tingling in their arms and legs or feel like their limbs have become heavier. Overall, the patient should soon experience a sense of calm and comfort. A patient under nitrous oxide will be able to hear and respond to the dentist’s questions, requests, and directions.

What is the Recovery Like

One reason nitrous oxide is so widely used is because there is barely any recovery. After the treatment, the body eliminates it within five minutes. Patients routinely drive themselves home after treatment.

Uncommonly, a patient might become so relaxed as to doze off in the chair. If this happens, the patient should take a little extra time to let the drowsiness wear off before leaving the office.

Most people using nitrous oxide experience no negative side effects at all. There are, however, a few rare exceptions. They include:

  • Confusion
  • Discomfort or numbness of the leg
  • Dizziness or headache
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Sweating or shivering

These side effects can be expected to wear off within minutes of the mask’s removal. If you experience any rare allergic reactions like chills, fever, hives, or difficulty breathing, you should let your dentist or their team know immediately.

Nitrous oxide is in almost all cases a safe way to manage discomfort in the dentist’s chair. Dentists have been known to have used it for almost two centuries to treat both children and adults. If you have further concerns or wish to discuss using it at your next appointment, contact your dentist.

About the Author

Dr. Franco Cordini, born in Trieste, Italy, graduated from the Creighton University School of Dentistry before completing the extensive specialist training for periodontics at the University of Louisville. He leads the staff at Cordini Periodontics in its quest to safeguard the dental health of Louisville, KY. For more information, contact him online or dial (502) 425-5010.

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