Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas is a colourless gas used as a sedative for patients undergoing various dental procedures. While it is not a pain reliever, this sweet-smelling vapour increases a person’s pain threshold and causes a state of relaxation in the body and mind. This allows children and adults who may be apprehensive about dental procedures to experience less anxiety during the appointment.
5 Myths about Nitrous Oxide Debunked
Below, we separate fact from fiction when it comes to nitrous oxide sedation and debunk some common myths.
Myth #1: Nitrous Oxide Sedation Is Only for Extremely Painful Dental Procedures
False. One of the largest myths about nitrous oxide sedation is it’s purpose of being a general anesthetic for major dental procedures such as root canals. While this gas can be used for such a purpose, it can also be used for any type of oral procedure including teeth cleanings and fillings. An advantage of nitrous oxide sedation is its capability to be used in varying sedation levels, not just to induce unconsciousness.
Myth #2: Nitrous Oxide Is Unsafe and Can Be Addictive
False. It has been used in dentistry for more than a century and is administered in safe amounts when controlled by a dental professional. As the effects of the sedation last a short time, dependent on the amount used for the patient’s needs, there are no lasting effects. The idea of addiction may be due to the euphoria sensation a person may experience while sedated, but use of the gas does NOT lead to dependency.
Myth #3: Nitrous Oxide Sedation Is Invasive and Painful
False. Nitrous oxide sedation is inhaled through a nose piece in the dentist office. It is safe for most patients and does not cause pain or other intrusive sensations. The amount given is carefully monitored by a dental professional and pure oxygen is exchanged for the nitrous oxide once the procedure is completed.
Myth #4: Nitrous Oxide Sedation Makes You Lose Consciousness
False. Nitrous oxide sedation provides a numbness sensation to the body and does not place the patient into an unconscious state. Use of general anesthesia drugs puts the patient into a state of total unconsciousness wherein they will not be able to be aware of or remember the procedure. Meanwhile, conscious sedation is a moderate sedation that is used to render a conscious state allowing the patient to be awake and responsive without anxiety of the procedure.
Myth #5: Nitrous Oxide Sedation Is Only for Dental Anxiety
False. While it provides a relatively relaxing state of mind for dental anxiety, nitrous oxide sedation is beneficial for other common dental experiences. The anaesthetic component of the gas can reduce tooth sensitivity, increase a low pain threshold, calm irritability and help with an overactive gag reflex.
Various Applications of Nitrous Oxide Sedation in Dentistry
Young children who may be anxious, nervous, worried or fearful of visiting a dentist office can be given nitrous oxide to help ease their stress. It can also be given to children who are unable to sit still or appear jittery.
The same can be said for older children and adults that may experience dental anxiety due to a previous traumatic experience or who frequently avoid the dentist out of fear. People who may live with a mental or physical disability can also find use of nitrous oxide sedation beneficial.
Can Learning About Nitrous Oxide Sedation Affect Your Choice?
Learning about nitrous oxide sedation can eliminate the fear of the unknown before having dental procedures performed. Speaking to the staff at your dental office can help you to develop a clear understanding of what to expect during your dental procedures.
The risk for an allergic reaction is low but any presence of chills, wheezing, hives or high fever should be reported to the dentist immediately for prompt medical treatment.
There are patients who may not be suitable for nitrous oxide sedation. Speak to your dentist if you are pregnant, nursing, or have a history of a respiratory or mental health condition.
Understanding the Potential Long-Term Effects of Nitrous Oxide
Nitrous oxide is considered one of the safest sedation resources in dentistry as the patient is conscious during treatment and the effects wear off quickly. However, although nitrous oxide does not cause withdrawal symptoms and is not addictive, there are some potential risks patients should be aware of,
- Misuse and Abuse: If nitrous oxide is used outside of the recommended dose for a procedure, the sensation or “high” experienced can tempt a person to overuse the gas for enjoyment rather than for dental means.
- Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Excessive use of nitrous oxide can reduce the essential B12 vitamins the body requires for brain and nervous system functioning. This can lead to brain and nerve damage over time.
- Neurological Symptoms: With a Vitamin B12 deficiency, the body may experience serious coordination problems, numbness in the hands and feet, arm and leg spasms, and general weakness.
- Mental Health Effects: Intake of any form of chemical, particularly excessive use of nitrous oxide, can cause cognitive impairment, memory loss, psychosis, depression and psychological dependence.
- Professional Use vs. Recreational Use: When used in a professional setting such as a dentist office, nitrous oxide is monitored and controlled within safe limits. Recreational use of the gas as a “high” is becoming problematic at house parties and festival.
- Prevention and Awareness: The dangers of misusing the odourless gas has led to skepticism by some dental patients. Use of the gas can lead to potential long-term effects if not controlled and monitored by a certified professional dentist or other medical personnel.
Get an Appointment at Princeview Dental Now!
At Princeview Dental Group, we offer safe and effective nitrous oxide sedation treatments based on each individual patient’s needs. Contact us at (416) 231-4562 for more information on how we can enhance your comfort during your dental appointment.