Nitrous oxide/oxygen is a blend of two gases: oxygen and nitrous oxide. A fitted mask is placed over the nose and, as the patient breaths normally, uptake occurs through the lungs. Because nitrous oxide is inhaled, it takes affect quickly and it is eliminated quickly. It is very safe, it is well tolerated by most children, it is non-allergenic, and the concentration can be adjusted easily for each child. Patients breathing nitrous oxide remain fully conscious throughout the dental visit.
Nitrous oxide has a faint sweet aroma, and reduces anxiety by causing a feeling of well-being and relaxation. Because it produces a sense of euphoria or giddiness, it is often called laughing gas or silly air. When breathing nitrous oxide, children may feel that time is going quickly, that sounds and sensations are dulled, that arms and legs feel heavy or tingly. Nitrous oxide also helps reduce a strong gag reflex, raises pain threshold, and reduces unexpected movement. Nitrous oxide/oxygen may be used in combination with local anesthetic or other sedative agents.
In order to use this form of sedation your child must be able to physically and cooperatively breathe through their nose.
Nitrous oxide has an excellent safety record. Nausea and vomiting are the most common adverse effects of nitrous oxide, occurring in 0.5% of patients. Limiting your child to only a light meal for two hours prior to the appointment will help reduce this side effect.