About Sedation Dentistry
Inhalation sedation, also known as laughing gas or nitrous oxide, has been described as representing the most nearly ‘ideal’ sedation.
Nitrous oxide is simply a gas which you can breathe in. It has no color, smell, and doesn’t irritate. It was discovered in 1772. Humphrey Davy (1778-1829), one of the pioneers of nitrous oxide, described the effects of nitrous oxide on himself following self-administration for a toothache and gum infection as follows:
On the day when the inflammation was the most troublesome, I breathed three large doses of nitrous oxide. The pain always diminished after the first four or five inspirations; the thrilling came on as usual, and uneasiness was for a few minutes swallowed up in pleasure.
Sounds like fun!! The extract above pretty much summarizes the effects of nitrous oxide: it kills pain – and it induces a pleasurable feeling. After 5 minutes or so of breathing in the gas, you should feel a euphoric feeling spread throughout your body. It really kind of feels like a ‘happy drunk’ feeling. Some people find that there are auditory or visual effects as well. You will feel a bit light headed and often people get ‘the giggles’ (hence the name laughing gas!).
What are the advantages of nitrous oxide?
- Nitrous oxide works very rapidly – it reaches the brain within 20 seconds, and relaxation and pain-killing properties develop after 2 or 3 minutes.
- There’s no “hangover” effect – the gas is eliminated from the body within 3 to 5 minutes after the gas supply is stopped. You can safely drive home and don’t need an escort.
- With nitrous oxide, it’s easy to give incremental doses until the desired action is obtained (this is called “titration”). So Dr. Safaei has virtually absolute control over the action of the drug, preventing the possibility of accidental overdoses.
- Inhalation sedation is very safe. It has very few side effects and the drugs used have no ill effects on the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain.