How Nitrous Oxide is Used in Dentistry

A significant minority of Americans suffer from dental anxiety. Regrettably, dental anxiety can interfere with good dental health. Those who are uneasy, anxious or afraid to visit their dentists may skip routine dental visits and delay crucial treatments. Skipping preventative care and delaying treatment can increase the risk of suffering more serious dental health issues. Sedation dentistry can provide these patients with a more relaxed, comfortable experience. Inhaled sedation is one of the more common options.

Inhaled sedation uses nitrous oxide, or laughing gas. Nitrous oxide has been used in dentistry since the mid-1800s when a dentist named Dr. Horace Wells first used it on himself to reduce the pain and discomfort of his own dental extraction. He began to offer nitrous oxide to his own patients. Just over 30 percent of dental practices use nitrous oxide these days, and the gas is considered to be one of the safest anesthetics available.

The gas has few side effects, however some individuals may experience nausea, which is why they may be advised to not eat two hours before their dental appointments. Within minutes of administration, patients will start to feel relaxed and lightly sedated. They may also notice that the soft tissues of their mouth feel somewhat numb. The dentist can adjust the dose of nitrous oxide as needed in order to increase the patient’s comfort level. Even though nitrous oxide can provide some pain relief, anesthesia is also typically offered for most procedures in order to ensure optimum comfort levels.

When the treatment or procedure is finished, the dentist will administer pure oxygen through the nose mask in order to help the individual achieve a more alert state. Nitrous oxide leaves the system almost immediately, and the sedative effects will usually be completely reversed within about five minutes. Unlike oral or IV sedation, patients will usually be able to leave the office on their own and not need to arrange for transportation.

Nitrous oxide can benefit kids, patients who are developmentally disabled and individuals who experience dental anxiety. Individuals who experience more severe dental phobia may be able to combine oral sedation with inhaled sedation for an even more relaxed experience. Still, while nitrous oxide is an extremely effective sedative for many people, it may not be appropriate for everyone. Individuals who are claustrophobic or who cannot breathe comfortably through their noses should not use nitrous oxide.

Dr. Afar, Los Angeles dentist offers different sedation options at his office. Learn more about sedation dentistry here.


March 20, 2013 | Author: | Posted in Health and Fitness

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