Everything You Need to Know about Laughing Gas

Laughing gas gets a lot of “press” because it has a funny name (pun intended), and it makes for a good story.  Many sitcoms have featured laughing gas in episodes where the main characters go to the dentist. While it definitely makes for good comic material, it is a genuine dental treatment option and necessary for many people to obtain the vital healthcare they need.  This article will explain all you need to understand about laughing gas.

What is Laughing Gas?

Laughing gas is an inhaled medication containing the gas nitrous oxide (or N2O) used in conjunction with many dental and medical procedures.  Officially, it is not a sedative, but it does produce some mild sedative effects.  It is actually a class of drugs known as anxiolytic,  which literally means it kills anxiety. 

While not everyone giggles when they breath laughing gas, it produces that effect in many, so most people simply call it laughing gas.  It just lowers the humor threshold and makes everything seem quite funny.

Why Do Dentists Offer Laughing Gas?

Laughing gas is a simple and safe way to help anxious patients undergo their necessary dental treatments.  It can help to lower blood pressure and relax someone enough to be still throughout a long dental procedure.

We do typically present laughing gas as the mildest sedation option (even though it’s not technically a sedative).  Unlike other sedation medications, laughing gas does not have any lingering effects.  Your body can quickly eliminate all nitrous oxide in your system by breathing pure oxygen for five minutes, so you can drive yourself to and from your visit and do not need anyone to accompany you.  Patients can use laughing gas for dental work and then return to work or pick their children up from school immediately afterward.

We have many patients who use laughing gas for every dental procedure, including their professional teeth cleanings with our hygienists.

Who Should Consider Laughing Gas?

Laughing gas is a wonderful option for patients who have mild to moderate anxiety over dental procedures.  We often use nitrous oxide to help young children relax and undergo needed dental fillings and crowns.  Laughing gas is safe and effective for almost everyone.  The only people who should avoid it are those who are unable to breathe through the nose and those with extreme claustrophobia who would be upset by the nosepiece on his or her face.

What Does Laughing Gas Feel Like?

Each person may experience a slightly different sensation with laughing gas.  As we said earlier, many people feel silly or giggly when breathing it.  One patient described it as having two margaritas from Mi Cocina.  We think the best description is this: you are still aware of what is going on around you; you just don’t care.  

It also produces an amnesia-like effect in that a long appointment may seem to go by very quickly, and you may not remember everything that happened.  Some people feel dizzy or slightly disoriented.  Many state that their fingers and toes feel tingly.

Not everyone loves the feeling of laughing gas.  If you feel unsettled or out of control, simply tell your dentist, and she can turn it down to a lower strength.  One advantage of laughing gas is our ability to adjust it immediately.

What Do I Need to Know Before I Use Laughing Gas for a Dental Procedure?

All of the side effects of nitrous oxide are temporary and subside as soon as you breathe oxygen again.  The most common negative side effect is nausea and/or vomiting.  For this reason, we ask every patient planning to receive laughing gas to NOT eat for a minimum of two hours prior to their procedure.  We also recommend that you not keep your cell phone on you as it puts you at risk for communications you could regret (“drunk dialing” from the dental office in the middle of the day is always awkward…).

Interested in Laughing Gas for Your Next Dental Procedure?

Call Prosper Family Dentistry at 972-347-1145 and let our front office team that you’re interested in laughing gas.  As long as you haven’t eaten within two hours, we can apply it to any procedure without much prior notice.  We can also answer any questions you have about N2O and how it works. 

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