Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is commonly used as a gentle sedative during pediatric dental procedures. Of course, any time and type of medication is administered to a child, parents want to be informed. Keep reading to find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about nitrous oxide!
What Is Nitrous Oxide?
Nitrous oxide is a colorless gas with a slightly sweet odor. It has been used for sedative purposes in medicine for about one hundred years, and once it is administered the patient remains awake but completely relaxed. Some patients even feel happy and giggly! All bodily functions remain normal during the administration of nitrous oxide, and the effects wear off quickly. When the procedure is over, the flow of nitrous oxide is decreased to zero, and the oxygen will be increased. After resting in the chair for a few minutes, the child will feel completely normal.
What are the benefits and side effects?
Compared to other sedatives, nitrous oxide has very little effect on the respiratory system. The most common adverse effects are nausea or vomiting, occurring in just 0.5% of patients, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
Nitrous oxide takes effect within minutes, and its effects are reversible almost immediately. The patient also does not have to fast beforehand, though the dentist may recommend that your child eat only a light meal a couple of hours before their appointment. This makes it great for pediatric procedures, and it also means that it can be used with less preparation and planning than most other sedative options. If during a procedure it seems that your child could benefit from nitrous oxide, your pediatric dentist will be able to discuss this as an option with you.
Nitrous oxide is not a substitute for a local anesthetic, as it does not numb pain. It is considered an anxiolytic, meaning it eases anxiety. However, a child receiving nitrous oxide may not always need an anesthetic injection, depending on the procedure. Even if they do need a numbing shot, they won’t mind at all while under sedation. They will be relaxed but they won’t be asleep, which means they will be able to speak, be aware of their surroundings, and remain in control of themselves during the procedure.
What are the alternatives to nitrous oxide?
There are a few alternatives for nitrous oxide, but treatment and procedure options vary greatly depending on the child and their specific situation. Your pediatric dentist will discuss all of your options with you when planning for treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
When do pediatric dentists use nitrous oxide?
Pediatric dentists typically use nitrous oxide when young patients are extremely stressed or nervous, and are not comfortable receiving dental treatment without some help. Nitrous oxide can also be used for longer procedures when your child might get uncomfortable and restless. It is perfectly understandable for children to feel anxious during dental procedures, and ‘laughing gas’ can help ease their nerves.
Before any treatment, we will take a complete medical history for your child, including any medications they are currently taking. This is done to ensure their safety, and make sure we are making the best choices for them. If you have any questions about preparing for your child’s dental care, do not hesitate to contact us here at Epic Dentistry for Kids!