Laughing Gas in Pediatric Dentistry

While it has a funny name, laughing gas is a seriously safe and effective procedure that helps your child stay relaxed during a dental procedure. Laughing gas helps your child tolerate dental procedures so he or she gets the most out of dental care without all of the worries.

About Laughing Gas

Dentists and other health professionals refer to laughing gas as nitrous oxide (NO).
Laughing gas is a type of sedation dentistry, which is an approach that uses sedatives to help manage anxiety and other special needs when a person receives dental care. Sedation dentistry is helpful when a child must undergo especially long procedures or multiple procedures, has a high fear of dental care, finds it hard to sit still or who has special needs. Laughing gas is helpful during procedures that may be mildly uncomfortable, and for dental care that requires your child to sit very still for a long time. Sedation dentistry is also helpful for kids that have strong gag reflexes.
Nitrous oxide is a very safe, mild sedative that helps your child stay relaxed while he or she undergoes dental procedures. Your child will be able to respond normally to commands while under the effects of laughing gas. Laughing gas has only a small effect on reflexes, so it does not affect coughing, blinking or other protective reflexes.
Laughing gas is safe and effective, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Nitrous oxide does not change your child’s blood pressure, pulse or other vital signs. When administered at recommended levels, nitrous oxide has a superior safety record with no recorded fatalities or significant problems. Safety is always important to you and to your child’s dentist.
It is important to note that laughing gas only provides a relaxing effect – it does not cause your child to go to sleep. The relaxing effects of nitrous oxide will last for up to six hours after administration.
Furthermore, nitrous oxide does not control discomfort or pain during or after the dental procedure. The dentist will control pain by injecting a numbing agent directly into the treatment area. Your child’s dentist will recommend pain relievers as needed to control discomfort related to the procedure.

What Happens During Administration of Laughing Gas

There are no special preparations for laughing gas, except you should limit your child to only a light meal before undergoing the procedure.
To administer laughing gas, the dentist uses a “space mask” that carries a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide. The dental professional will ask your child to breathe in the mixture through his or her nose, rather than through their mouth. Your child may notice a faint, sweet smell.
The sedation should take effect after about 5 minutes. The dentist will leave the mask on your child’s face throughout the entire procedure. While your child is awake during the whole procedure, he or she will experience happy feelings throughout.
The dentist will turn off the laughing gas when the procedure is over. Your child will then breathe in pure oxygen for approximately 5 minutes, just to air out any nitrous oxide remaining in his or her lungs.
Your boy or girl will be able to return to normal activity right away unless he or she underwent a procedure that requires a few hours of quiet time. Most children feel fine after having laughing gas and are even enthusiastic about the “space ride” after they wear the “space mask.”
Some kids say they feel light-headed or a tingly feeling in their arms and legs. Others say their arms and legs feel heavy. These feelings disappear quickly after the laughing gas helps the child feel calm and comfortable. The sensations fade completely after the dentist removes the mask.
For more information about laughing gas in pediatric dentistry, ask your child’s dentist. The more you know about sedation dentistry and other dental procedures, the more your child can gain from dental care.