Is laughing gas enough to ease your dental anxiety?

Laughing gas, happy gas, and sweet air are all common names people give to nitrous oxide, a safe but effective gaseous sedative that aids in relaxation and reduces stress. It’s used throughout the medical industry, but it’s especially popular in dental practices as a method of relieving dental anxiety.

Let’s talk about why nitrous oxide is so frequently used and how you can tell if you need something stronger during treatment visits.

Nitrous oxide is the mildest form of conscious sedation for all ages.

Whether you’re an adult with dental anxiety or a parent of a nervous child, nitrous oxide is a safe solution for encouraging physical and mental relaxation.

The nickname “happy gas” is quite accurate, as many people find it puts them in a pleasant, calm mood. Some also experience a feeling of lightness or bubbliness, physically and mentally. Nitrous oxide also smells somewhat sweet, so breathing it in through the mask is enjoyable, especially for kids.

Nitrous oxide wears off quickly and has no lingering effects.

One of the best things about nitrous oxide is that the effects wear off within minutes. After your dental procedure is complete, the nitrous oxide will be turned down, and the oxygen will gradually rise until you’re back to 100%. The mask will be removed, and the majority of people will feel fully alert and able to drive home.

Keep in mind that if you’ve never had nitrous oxide before, it’s recommended to have someone available to drive just in case. In very rare cases, some people will feel sleepy or a little lightheaded, so it’s always a safe choice to have a driver when you don’t know how your body will react to nitrous oxide.

Oral conscious sedation is a step up for moderate to severe anxiety.

If you’ve tried nitrous oxide, but you’re still feeling significantly anxious or find yourself avoiding your appointments, it’s time to ask your dentist about oral conscious sedation (OCS).

OCS is the strongest form of conscious sedation, and the effect is somewhere between nitrous oxide and general anesthesia. Unlike general anesthesia, OCS won’t completely knock you out. However, you’ll feel quite groggy, and most people fall in and out of  a light sleep, though they’re still easily woken by their dentist.

Many people are pleasantly surprised when their appointment is over because an hour or two can feel like only 10 or 15 minutes have passed.

Safe medication is prescribed following a medical evaluation.

OCS is very safe, but because it involves a strong prescription sedative, there is an inherently greater risk than nitrous oxide. That’s why the dentists at Ada Smile Place follow the highest standards of safety. Your medical history, overall health, and current medications will be thoroughly evaluated and considered before a prescription is written.

Your dentist may even collaborate with your PCP to discuss medication options if you have a complex medical history or are on several different medications to control health conditions.

Most medication will be in tablet or capsule form, and you’ll be given instructions on when to take it before your appointment. The most common prescriptions are taken 45 minutes to an hour before your visit, so be prepared to have someone drive you to and from your appointment.

OCS has lingering sedating effects, and you’ll need someone to drive you home.

Unlike nitrous oxide, there’s no “off switch” for OCS.

The most commonly used medications for OCS last anywhere from two to eight hours, which means you’ll still feel the effects for a while after your appointment. For this reason, having someone drive you home from your appointment is absolutely necessary.

The good news is that, when you get home, you’ll be eager to nap, which can help you decompress from any anxiety you may have felt before your visit.

Your dentist will help you decide which sedation option is best.

Your dentist will be a valuable guide in helping you determine whether nitrous oxide or oral conscious sedation is the right choice, especially if you’re new to sedation dentistry. Being open with your dentist about your anxiety is encouraged, especially if nitrous oxide doesn’t seem to be helping or you recognize that your anxiety still keeps you from appointments.

Remember that the team at Ada Smile Place prioritizes patient well-being by practicing advanced comfort dentistry. We want you to feel as relaxed as possible during your visits, and our staff is knowledgeable about challenging difficult dental anxiety can be for patients. The best way to find out which sedation option is right for you is to book an appointment with the team at Ada Smile Place.