Anxiety in patients is not uncommon. Among adults and children, there is always someone who is frightened by the mere thought of visiting a doctor. When it comes to dentistry, a lot of the work done requires precision. This means that the dentist can give their very best when a patient is sited still for the treatment. However, this is not always the case.

Dentists have to deal with tons of patients that are too anxious to hold still. Luckily, different methods of sedation come to the rescue. To improve oral health, dentists rely on sedation as a means to keep their patients still.

What Is The Role of Nitrous Oxide in Sedation?

Nitrous oxide and sedation are not strangers. In sedation dentistry, nitrous oxide is often used to keep patients calm. It is considered an anxiolytic, and this means it gets rid of anxiety in the body. This colorless gas has been used for centuries in dentistry. Ideally, the gas is known as laughing gas by most people. It has a sweet smell and is not harmful when inhaled.

The gas is used in conscious sedation in dentistry. This is when the patient is awake during the dental procedure, but very much relaxed. In most cases, the gas is used alongside local anesthesia. This ensures that the patient is relaxed and that his/her mouth remains numb during the procedures. When the sedative is administered, patients have a feeling of well-being during the dental procedure. This helps calm their nerves.

The best part of using this sedation method is that it wears off quickly after the procedure. This way, a patient can even be in a position to drive themselves home after the treatment. However, you have to be cleared by your dentist before you do so.

How Is Nitrous Oxide Administered?

Sedation methods vary in administration. Some are given through pills, and others through injection. However, with nitrous oxide, the administration is different. The patient has to wear a comfortable mask over their nose. From here, the gas is let through the mask.

However, it is not administered on its own. The gas is mixed with oxygen. The proportions are kept at a safe level for human intake. As the patient slowly inhales the gases, the sedation begins. To confirm that the sedation is working, the patient may start to experience a floating sensation. Other than that, the patient might have a tingly feeling on the hands.

The mask is kept on through the procedure, to ensure it does not wear off before the treatment is over. The concentration is reduced as the dentist nears completion of the process. Once done, the flow of nitrous oxide is reduced to zero as the level of oxygen is increased. This usually depends on the situation at hand.

The patient, however, does not fall asleep or become unconscious. They are, in fact, aware of everything that is happening. The only difference is that they do not worry about it, because the anxiety and phobia are taken away. The idea is to relax their body so they do not have impulsive reactions once the procedure begins. The dentist then has to verify that the sedative has worked before the dental procedure begins.

Do You Still Need Local Anesthesia?

Most people mistake nitrous oxide sedative for local anesthesia. However, that is far from the truth. The nitrous oxide sedation is meant to help the body remain calm and collected through nerve-racking situations. However, local anesthesia is necessary to reduce pain. The local anesthesia will still be administered to a patient before a procedure, to numb the mouth as the dentist works. However, not all dental treatments necessitate the use of local anesthesia, unless by directives of the dentist.

When Is Nitrous Oxide Used?

It is not every patient that visits a dentist that inhales nitrous oxide. The sedative is administered under circumstances such as:

  • When the procedure might take long – the length of the procedure can cause anxiety. Besides, keeping the mouth open for a long time can strain the jaw and cause fatigue. At such times, the sedation is administered to reduce awareness of time and fatigue.
  • To control gagging
  • When the patient is afraid – especially children
  • Upon the request of a patient – sometimes patients ask for sedation to get rid of the phobia


At the end of the day, sedation will give you the desired confidence to go through dental treatment without unnecessary disruptions as the dentist is at work.

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