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Laughing gas, or nitrous oxide, is a colorless gas used in surgery and dentistry. It provides relaxation and reduces anxiety, but it does not put a patient to sleep.

How would laughing gas be given to my child?

The dentist will provide the parent with instructions prior to the visit. Also, a parent must sign a consent form. The dentist will review previous medical history prior to giving treatment with gas.  It is mixed with oxygen and flows through a small mask that fits over the nose. The child will breathe normally and may feel light-headed or slightly tingly within a few moments. However, the child should become calm and comfortable. Laughing gas does not usually put the patient to sleep. The child will be able to listen and speak. You will need to stay for several minutes after the treatment. During that time, the dental staff will observe the patient and make sure he or she is fully recovered before going home.

When is it used?

A pediatric dentist may recommend nitrous oxide when:

  • A patient is very fearful or anxious.
  • A patient’s gagging reflex makes the dental procedure difficult
  • A patient must sit still through a lengthy procedure
  • There is a special health need

Are there side effects to laughing gas?

Laughing gas has been used since the 1844 for surgery and dentistry. It is considered safe and effective. Nausea occurs in less than 1% of patients. Headache can occur with rapid release of the nitrous, but dentists administer 100% oxygen for a few minutes after the procedure. This prevents the headache symptom. Laughing gas does not stay in the patient’s system and is gone shortly after being turned off.

Always speak to your dentist prior to any new procedures. It is their job to make sure you are comfortable and fully informed.  Visit this helpful article to learn about other dental sedation techniques.