10 July, 2019

Why Do Dentists Use Laughing Gas?


If you are a nervous patient or need help to relax during a dental procedure, your dentist may offer you sedation. Sedation is commonly used to help children remain cooperative during treatment.

Sedation can take the fear out of your experience in the chair. It will enable your dentist to work quickly and more efficiently on your teeth.

What is dental sedation?

Also known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide is the most common sedation agent used in modern dentistry and has been standard procedure since the mid-19th Century. It remains popular because it works quickly, is easy to administer and when properly used, is very safe.

How does it work?

The sedative is mixed with oxygen and is inhaled through a flexible mask placed over the patient’s nose. It’s absorbed through the lungs and then into the bloodstream. Once a patient starts breathing the gas mixture, it takes between 30 seconds and four minutes to take effect.

The brain’s and body’s responses will slow down, and this contributes to a feeling of relaxation and calm. The patient may start laughing or giggling while under the influence of laughing gas – this is perfectly normal.

Do I need to prepare for sedation?

Side effects are rare but can include nausea and vomiting. To minimise the risk, a patient will be asked to eat light meals ahead of treatment and to avoid eating too much during the hours following their appointment.

What does laughing gas feel like?

Precise effects vary from patient to patient, but patients are likely to feel light-headed and euphoric, with heavy limbs and occasionally, tingling in the arms and legs. There will be an overwhelming sense of floating. A patient may experience different perceptions of sound, touch and vision – but not overwhelming.

The treatment a patient is undergoing will seem a long way off. Although they may feel sleepy, they will usually remain awake. They will still be able to hear the dentist and respond to any instructions they are given.

Is laughing gas suitable for everyone?

Nitrous oxide is not recommended for children under the age of three, women in the first trimester of pregnancy or people with some respiratory conditions.

If you think you would benefit from nitrous oxide sedation, discuss it with your dentist before your treatment plan is finalised. You will be asked to fill in a full medical questionnaire and based on your health your dentist will determine whether nitrous oxide sedation is the right choice for you.

There are numerous ways available to minimise any worries about dental treatment. Talk to our team at Dentistry Plus and we will plan your treatment to ensure that you are supported through your dental anxiety and have the best experience available.

Established in 2008, we offer quality dental work at highly competitive prices. We’re covered by all health insurance funds, registered with DVA and we’re also a Medibank Advantage plus provider.