Laughing gas is another name for nitrous oxide, a safe, mild sedative that’s administered through a small mask placed over the nose. As your child breathes through the mask, he’ll inhale a mixture of medicine and oxygen. Nitrous oxide has a faintly sweet aroma, and its calming, relaxing effects take place in a matter of moments. Laughing gas may produce a feeling of calm, well-being, subdued giddiness, or euphoria, depending on the patient. For anxious children sitting in the dentist chair, laughing gas can be the difference between a nerve-racking experience or a relaxed, calm procedure.
Nitrous oxide is arguably one of the safest sedatives used in dentistry and is well tolerated by most patients — adults and children alike. The medicine is non-allergenic, has a rapid onset, and its effects can easily be reversed. Because dentists can control the concentration levels of the gas, they can adjust it appropriately for pediatric patients of all ages. Although laughing gas is very relaxing, it allows your child to maintain control of his natural reflexes, and it won’t make him fall asleep. Your child will also be able to communicate normally while sedated.
Before laughing gas can be administered to your child for a dental procedure, it’s important to let Dr. DiBenedetto know what medications your child takes, if any, and whether he has a respiratory condition that makes breathing through his nose difficult. Having a stuffy nose or a respiratory illness can limit the effectiveness of laughing gas, so it’s best not to schedule appointments that require this type of sedation when your child has a cold or severe seasonal allergies. Because breathing laughing gas on a full stomach can make patients feel nauseous or vomit, it’s important that your child doesn’t eat for at least 2 hours before his visit. Dr. DiBenedetto’s team will give you full pre-sedation instructions in advance of your child’s scheduled appointment.
Compared to other types of sedation used in dentistry (oral sedatives and IV sedation), the effects of laughing gas wear off relatively quickly. Your child will stay in the office for a brief period of observation as the medicine wears off, but he should be able to return home and resume his normal routine shortly thereafter. Even so, sedation affects every patient differently, and your child may feel groggy, dizzy, slightly confused, or a bit nauseous. These common reactions will go away once the nitrous oxide has worn off completely.