Nitrous oxide has been used in the fields of dentistry and medicine for over 200 years. Over that time it has proven itself to be a safe and effective clinical sedative. Nitrous oxide, or happy gas, is a completely safe sedative option — it really is perfect for children that are apprehensive, fearful or downright terrified about going to the dentist.
What is Nitrous Oxide?
It is a colourless, odourless gas that is administered through a mask. The gas is combined with oxygen, which means it can be safely inhaled. The level of sedation provided by nitrous oxide is very mild and short-lasting, making it a far better alternative than general anaesthetics, especially when it comes to paediatric dentistry.
The gas is also an analgesic, meaning anxious children will be able to experience a far less painful visit to the dentist. The effect of the gas will usually be noticeable after about three minutes and the immediate effect is one of euphoria. Some patients also notice a slight tingling sensation, as well as visual and auditory distortion.
All of these effects are entirely enjoyable and it is very unlikely that your child will feel uncomfortable.
How Does it Work?
Mixing the gas with a minimum of 30% oxygen produces a safe level of sedation. As the patient inhales the gas, they will notice a euphoric and tingling sensation (as mentioned above) before reaching the final level of sedation. This level of sedation has often been compared to a warm, floaty feeling. You can describe it to your children as feeling as though they are lying on a big, comfortable cushion.
The level of sedation can be changed very quickly, simply by changing the levels of oxygen and nitrous oxide. This is perfect when dealing with children as your dentist can monitor your child’s mood and make adjustments to ensure they are completely comfortable.
For example, if your child is still displaying signs of nervousness or experiencing pain, the dentist can quickly increase the gas and place your child in a deeper level of sedation. Once the perfect level of sedation has been reached, the nitrous oxide is adjusted in order to maintain this level and allow for a comfortable dentistry experience.
Despite the length of its usage in medical and dental circles, the way in which nitrous oxide works on the brain is still a mystery. It depresses all forms of sensation, from sight to touch while also depressing the areas of the brain that cause nervousness and anxiety.
What Types of Paediatric Dental Procedures Can Nitrous Oxide Be Used In?
It can be used in all types of dental procedures, but it’s important to remember that cooperation between the child and your dentist is necessary for the sedation to work.
If your child is unwilling to wear the mask and inhale the gas, there is no way for your dentist to make the experience more enjoyable. Nitrous oxide is perfect for children who have a fear of the dentist but are still willing to work with your dentist in order to get the procedure done.
Benefits of Nitrous Oxide
- Memory and intellectual brain function is not affected by nitrous oxide; your child’s cognitive abilities will not be affected.
- There are no residual effects of the gas and your child will feel completely normal five minutes after the gas has worn off, meaning your child can go back to school or return to normal activities straight after their appointment.
- The effects of the gas come on very quickly; meaning the time that your child feels fearful is lessened.
- If you feel as though your child isn’t enjoying the experience, the level of sedation can be quickly altered.
- It is impossible to be allergic to nitrous oxide and there are no medical contraindications.
Disadvantages of Nitrous Oxide
Nitrous oxide does place children in a temporarily altered-state. Most children will feel completely comfortable in this state but due to differences in temperament, your child may find the experience confronting. They may hate the feeling of losing control, they may feel claustrophobic while the mask is on and some children may feel a little nauseous whilst under the effects of the gas.
There are no medical disadvantages in administering to healthy children. However, if your child has a cold or some other condition which is preventing them from breathing through their nose nitrous oxide won’t be a suitable sedative option.
Deciding if Nitrous Oxide is Right for Your Child
Paediatric dentists are all experts in assessing how children will respond to treatments and procedures. That means your dentist is the best person to decide if your child will respond well to nitrous oxide.
Your dentist will not recommend nitrous oxide if they feel as though your child doesn’t have the required maturity to undergo the procedure. There are other options available for anxious children, but it is the most preferred sedative for young children.
If you would like more information about Nitrous Oxide or would like to book an appointment please contact us: