Laughing gas, funny air, “the good stuff” – whatever you’d like to call it nitrous oxide has had a place in dentistry for over 75 years! It has many different uses but in the dentist office it has two main jobs – helping reduce anxiety and minimizing pain. It achieves these two tasks by working through different mechanisms in the body, it is considered an effective agent while having little to no effect on the body’s respiratory or breathing system. This means it can lessen anxiety and pain while keeping your breathing and heart rate steady.
So, that silly feeling – how long will it take to set in and how long will it stick around for? Because the laughing gas has a rapid uptake into the body and is not absorbed by any of your tissues, it sets in almost immediately. Likewise since the body does not keep any of that laughing gas in its cells once it is turned off and the patient is just breathing oxygen, the laughing gas is eliminated very quickly from the lungs and in just a few minutes you will feel back to yourself again.
So why doesn’t everyone get nitrous oxide? Outside of medical conditions that limit its use there are some other limitations, as well. A child has to be able to calmly breathe through their nose with nitrous oxide nose on in order for it to be effective. Even if a child cannot do it the first time- it is certainly something you can work on with your pediatric dentist! The use of the laughing gas can also make for good appointments as a child gets older since they have had pleasant experiences in the past.
What are some things you should know if your child is getting laughing gas at the dentist? They should have only a very light meal, water and toast, before their appointment. Sometimes with a heavy or greasy meal beforehand patients can feel a little nauseous. Afterwards they should be bouncing back to their normal selves shortly.