“May I have some laughing gas please?” This is a popular request among the “high anxiety” group. Nitrous oxide gas (nitrous oxide and oxygen (N20-02)) is affectionately known as “laughing gas” due to its euphoric qualities when inhaled.
Discovered in 1772 by Humphrey Davy, he had this to say about its effects: “On the day when the inflammation was the most troublesome, I breathed three large doses of nitrous oxide. The pain always diminished after the first four or five inspirations; the thrilling came on as usual, and uneasiness was for a few minutes swallowed up in pleasure.” When the gas is inhaled (at an approximately 50% nitrous oxide + 50% oxygen dilution), after several minutes nearly all pain dissipates from the body and a euphoric warmth spreads throughout the body. This pleasant feeling is not only pain-reducing, but can calm anxious nerves and relax all but the most fearsome patients. The calming, relaxing and euphoric qualities of nitrous oxide make it a prime candidate for anesthetizing patients who have irrational fears about dental procedures who are unable to get comfortable in the chair. Because laughing gas can be highly effective in treating moderate dental anxieties, nitrous oxide gas can also benefit the dental physician working on a patient – calm environments benefit everyone! Patients with high blood pressure, or who have had heart attacks in the past and are at risk from traditional IV anesthesia are prime candidates for nitrous oxide sedation.
The level of sedation and warmth felt in the body after inhaling nitrous oxide gas depends on the concentration of the dosage, and how long the gas is administered. Because the gas is administered into the lungs, it is saturated into the blood stream very quickly and once the procedure is finished, there are no lingering “hangover” effects, meaning it is safe to drive home without an escort. Local anesthesia is still necessary for the treatment site, but needle-phobia will disappear with laughing gas. If you suffer from dental anxieties and have tried different techniques, seen different dentist and you still can not face dental work with ease, it is worth while for you to try nitrous oxide during your next dental procedure. Have a discussion with your dental professional.