The most commonly employed technique used in conscious sedation dentistry is inhalation sedation with nitrous oxide and oxygen (N20-02) or “laughing gas”. The goal sought when laughing gas is used is to eliminate dental anxiety, making the patient more comfortable while the sedation dentist is able to more effectively complete the planned dental care procedure while the patient is sedated.
A small rubber inhaler will be placed over the patient’s nose and adjusted so that the patient is comfortable. At this time, the patient will be breathing 100% oxygen. Once the patient is comfortable breathing oxygen, the sleep dentist gradually will introduce nitrous oxide. Over the next three to five minutes, the patient will be asked, “What are you feeling?” as the amount of nitrous oxide is slowly increased.
The sedation dentist will talk with the patient throughout the dental care procedure and the individual will be able to respond without any problem. This is a major advantage, and a safety feature, of conscious sedation using laughing gas. Laughing gas inhalation sedation is highly effective in the management of mild to moderate levels of dental anxiety. It also is an excellent technique in persons who are extreme gaggers; laughing gas usually eliminates or minimizes gagging in most patients.
Laughing gas is highly recommended for apprehensive patients who have medical problems such as angina pectoris, persons who have had a heart attack, or persons with high blood pressure, asthma or epilepsy. Inhalation sedation dentistry should not be used with persons who are claustrophobic or with persons who are unable to breathe through their nose. Please discuss these with your dentist before treatment using laughing gas begins.