Dental Anxiety & Nitrous Oxide


No matter how hard they try, some people can never get comfortable in the dentist’s chair or office when they go for dental treatment. To curb dental anxiety in patients, dentists use a general anesthetic, nitrous oxide during an appointment. Using nitrous oxide as a sedation dentistry practice can help with something as simple as tooth cleaning to more complex, invasive procedures. Unlike general anesthesia or moderate sedation, it does not put you to sleep at all.

Does Nitrous Oxide Help with Anxiety?

Yes, nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is a safe and effective alternative that helps patients with anxiety relax during medical procedures such as dental treatment. This type of sedation involves breathing/inhalation of laughing gas through a mask you wear over the nose. The dentist has significant control of the amount of laughing gas administered to the body of the patient. This does not put you to sleep during treatment like general anesthesia yet it minimizes the pain and anxiety commonly experienced when people go to see dentists.

While the idea of sedation may raise questions about safety, it may be helpful to know that it is typically administered alongside oxygen in a mixture, the gas wears off quickly and you can even drive yourself home after the dental procedure since you were awake and relaxed the entire time. In addition, there are no side effects of nitrous oxide and yet, your oral health gets better. While it will be continuously administered during your visit, the gas inhaled during the entire process is quickly expelled from the lungs immediately after the procedure with  minimal effects on the patients.

Who Should Not Use Nitrous Oxide?

While nitrous oxide is largely used in sedation for dental procedures, some people should not use it, including:

Specific Medical Conditions

If you have conditions that cause nasal obstruction, such as common cold and enlarged  tonsils, laughing gas is contra-indicated as it would these conditions would prevent the right amount of laughing gas and oxygen from reaching your lungs.

Other patients who are not candidates for the procedure include those with:

  • Severe emotional disturbances
  • Drug-related dependencies
  • Middle ear disturbances
  • Latex allergies
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Pregnancy

What Helps with Anxiety at The Dentist?

Laughing gas helps to ease patients who suffer from anxiety. It is relatively safe for both children and adults, except for the groups we have mentioned above. The benefits of using it for dentistry include that it does not require needles to take effect and wears off quickly, and the dentist can adjust levels as appropriate for your health. If you feel that you can benefit from treatment with nitrous oxide for your next procedure, talk about its administration with your dentist and experience the calm associated with the administration of this medication.