FAQ > Dental Treatments > What is Nitrous oxide / oxygen sedation (laughing gas)?

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Information about Nitrous Oxide / Oxygen Sedation


Nitrous oxide / oxygen sedation (laughing gas, happy air) is used to relieve anxiety, mild pain control, and sensitive gag reflex.  It does not make you fall asleep, but just feel relaxed, like you are “floating on a cloud” and helps take your mind off of the dental treatment.

We find nitrous oxide / oxygen sedation to be very effective in children aged 3+ who have some mild anxiety about dental treatment, but are still able to happily sit in the dental chair and follow directions.  Some children do not like the feeling of “floating on a cloud” or “being out of control”, and in some children, it can cause increased activity or agitation.

While rare, the most common side effect can be nausea or vomiting.

For some children, nitrous oxide/oxygen sedation may not calm them adequately to allow a dental procedure to be done.  For these children, we may consider alternate treatment options.

Usually, we still have to do local anesthesia (novocaine) to completely numb the tooth.  However, the nitrous oxide / oxygen sedation makes the injection of novocaine more comfortable, and often patients don’t even know they got an injection.

After your child’s treatment is done, they will receive 100% oxygen.  This helps clear the laughing gas out of their system in just a few minutes.  Your child should feel pretty much back to normal after their appointment, and not feel sedated.  

Instructions prior to an appointment with nitrous oxide/oxygen sedation:

1. Have an empty stomach, or eat just a light meal before an appointment with nitrous oxide/oxygen sedation.  Don’t eat a large, heavy meal right before the appointment.  Your child will be able to eat after the appointment usually within one hour.  

2. If your child has a cold or allergies that is causing a stuffy nose, nitrous oxide/oxygen sedation will not be effective, as you must breathe it in through the nose continuously during dental treatment.  We may consider rescheduling for another day when your child is not so congested.