Anxiety Relief: Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas or Happy Gas) and Oral Sedation

For some, going to the dentist is a terrifying experience. Often a bad experience in the past is not forgotten and now all dental appointments are scary. We have a large number of patients who have come to us with severe dental anxiety and/or phobia that now are able to receive care comfortably. We have several ways of helping those with fear of the dentist, depending on the degree of their fear. The best way we have found to alleviate the fear of the dentist is to establish trust with our patients. We educate our patients verbally and visually so they fully understand any problems they have and how we will be addressing the problem. We go slowly when needed and reassure the patients as we go. Essentially we are very compassionate in our care for all patients. For those who need more than education and compassion we provide nitrous oxide or oral sedation (in situation where surgery is required we will often refer to an Oral Surgeon for deep sedation).

Nitrous oxide is simply a gas which you can breathe in, allowing you to enjoying a remarkable depth of relaxation. Nitrous oxide is colorless, sweet smelling, non-irritating and allows for safer, quicker and more comfortable dental care. The use of nitrous oxide virtually eliminates the fear, nervousness and tension associated with dental procedures. You remain in complete control, you are conscious and you can follow directions. The advantages of nitrous oxide are associated with the quick onset, adjustability and quick removal of it and its effects. Nitrous oxide works very rapidly, it reaches the brain within 20 seconds, and relaxation and painkilling properties develop after two to three minutes. With nitrous oxide, the depth of sedation can be altered from moment to moment, allowing us to increase or decrease the depth of sedation by incremental doses until the desired action is obtained, this is called titration. We have virtually absolute control over the action of the drug, preventing the possibility of accidental overdoses. Other sedation techniques don’t allow for this titration or quick adjustment to the depth of sedation. Nitrous oxide acts as a painkiller; however, its pain-relieving effects may vary from person to person so we still will get the patient numb, for procedures that require local anesthesia, after the patient is comfortable on the nitrous oxide.

Oral sedation techniques have a fixed duration of action because the effects of pills that last for a specific span of time. For oral sedation we prescribe the patient a type of medication from the drug class of benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are medications commonly prescribed to people with anxiety and/or phobias. When oral sedation medications are used, the patient will take the medication prior to their dental appointment and will still feel the effects after their appointment. Therefore, anyone who has oral sedation MUST have someone drive them to their appointment and drive them home from their appointment.

We often will use nitrous oxide for most patients but we have options to accommodate your specific needs.