Nitrous Oxide and Sedation Dentistry: A Standard of Safety

Nitrous oxide-oxygen (N2O-O2), also known as laughing gas, has safely been used for sedation in dentistry for decades. Today, it is used primarily for anxiety management because fear and anxiety are both associated with a lowered pain threshold and increased patient discomfort. Due to its extremely safe and ease of use, licensed dental hygienists have been allowed to administer it, with 32 states currently accepting such practice. During use of nitrous oxide, a “conscious sedation” method, the patient remains awake, can breathe normally, is responsive to verbal communication, and both cough and gag reflexes function normally. Many patients avoid dental treatment because of fear of pain, but because nitrous oxide can raise the patient’s pain threshold and reduce anxiety, it has great value in everyday dental practices.

According to an article in RDH magazine, N2O-O2 has been safely used for a staggering 150-years, with no reports that there has ever been a death attributed to it when used as the sole sedative. With proper training and technique, complications are very rare, and no allergies have ever been reported. While some side effects have been reported, there are virtually no adverse effects on liver, kidneys, brain, cardiovascular or respiratory systems.

One of the most important safety features presented while using nitrous oxide is the fact that the depth and duration of sedation is easily controlled by the administering clinician. In standard practice, the titration technique is used, where the administration begins with 100% O2 with a very gradual addition of N2O and subtraction of O2 until the baseline for the patient is reached. In the event that the patient feels he or she is receiving too much nitrous, the gases can be quickly adjusted, providing almost immediate relief. After administration has ended, recovery time for patients is very fast, typically three to five minutes. That’s because N2O is not metabolized in the body and 99.9% is eliminated unchanged via exhalation.

The use of laughing gas in the dental office has become very popular in recent years. Although it isn’t always recommended for every patient, it is especially appropriate for those with mild to moderate anxiety, mild inflammation, intolerance for long appointments, cardiovascular conditions, or asthma. The dental professionals at Miami Dental Sedation Spa specialize in sedation dentistry, and we pride ourselves on the comfortable treatment of all of our patients. We offer several sedation options to meet the many needs of our patients, and all are administered by trained and licensed dentists. Have questions? Please give us a call at 305-445-4646.

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