How Does Nitrous Oxide Work?

Closeup of a young woman wearing a nose mask so she can breathe in relaxing nitrous oxide

There’s no doubt that comfort for patients at the dentist has increased dramatically since the early days of dentistry. Part of this is thanks to advancements in dental sedation techniques. One of the most commonly used types of sedation is nitrous oxide, which you may know as laughing gas.

What Is Nitrous Oxide?

Nitrous oxide is an odorless, colorless gas. The nickname “laughing gas” was coined when the gas was first used as recreational party entertainment. High doses would make people under its effect feel extremely giddy or euphoric. However, when safely administered at the dentist, nitrous oxide simply lulls a patient into a calm state of physical and mental relaxation. It is considered a mild form of sedation compared to deeper forms of sedation like oral conscious sedation and IV sedation.

How Is Nitrous Oxide Administered?

To administer nitrous oxide, we place a comfortable, plastic mask on top of the patient’s nose. The mouth is not covered so the dental team can work on the teeth. The amount of nitrous oxide that flows is adjusted depending on the patient’s needs.

How Does Nitrous Oxide Affect the Body?

When the nitrous oxide is inhaled, it produces an anti-anxiety effect by blocking certain neurotransmitters. In addition, the nitrous oxide stimulates other receptors, which in turn inhibit pain and trigger dopamine release. For patients who have dental fear or anxiety and are unable to sit through their entire treatment, nitrous oxide can help them feel calm and comfortable enough to get the treatment they need.

When the mask is removed and you breathe in normal air, its effects will quickly wear off. This means you can drive yourself home and go about your day normally.

Safe Dental Sedation in Liberty, MO

Seaport Family Dentistry offers sedation dentistry at our family-friendly dental office. Do you have more questions about nitrous oxide? Contact us today! Our team can get you the information you need.