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Nitrous oxide, sometimes called “laughing gas,” is a colorless and virtually odorless gas. It has analgesic and antiesthetic effects. Therefore, nitrous oxide is used in surgery and dentistry.

How would nitrous be given to my child?

The dentist will review previous medical history prior to administration of the gas. The dentist will provide the parent with instructions prior to the visit. Also, a parent must sign a consent form which is stored in the patient’s records. Laughing gas does not usually put the patient to sleep. Mixed with oxygen, the gas flows through a small mask that fits over the nose. The child will breathe normally through the nose. He or she may feel light-headed or slightly tingly within a few moments, but will be calm and comfortable. The child will be able to listen, answer questions, and speak. You will need to stay for a short time after the treatment. During that time, the dental staff will watch for any problems and make sure the child fully recovers before discharge.

When might nitrous be used?

A pediatric dentist may recommend nitrous oxide for a patient if he or she is fearful and anxious. The dentist may also use it for children whose gagging reflex makes a dental procedure very difficult.  In addition, the gas is also helpful to relax a cooperative child who has to sit still through a lengthy procedure.

Are there side effects or health concerns?

Laughing gas is a safe and effective sedative. It has been in use since the 1880s for both surgery and dentistry. Nausea occurs in less than 1% of patients. Headache can occur with rapid release of the nitrous, but dentists administer 100% oxygen for a few minutes after the procedure. This prevents the headache symptom.

Always speak to your dentistry team prior to any new procedures and make sure you are comfortable and fully informed.  Visit this helpful article to learn about other dental sedation techniques.