Due to the complexity and discomfort involved, some dental procedures require a sedative to keep the patient from moving or reacting to discomfort during a procedure, such as drilling or making an incision. There are multiple options for sedation, but one of the mildest options is the administration of nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas. Laughing gas places the patient in a partially-lucid state where the patient will be more likely to remain still and less likely to feel any type of discomfort.
How Laughing Gas Works
Our team creates a gaseous mixture by combining laughing gas and oxygen. Prior to the procedure, our team will place a non-invasive inhalation device on the patient and administer the laughing gas. Upon inhalation, laughing gas binds to opioid receptors in the brain. This leads to a reduction of negative sensations received. Laughing gas also prompts the brain to generate dopamine, which triggers feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Although nitrous oxide is nicknamed as laughing gas, few patients actually laugh after being exposed to it.
The Four Levels of Laughing Gas Sedation
Administering laughing gas is a gradual process. Since each patient has their own tolerance levels for laughing gas, there is no “correct” dosage. The gradual incrementation of laughing gas can lead to up to four levels of sedation. The first level involves tingling in the arms and legs. The second level adds sensations of warmth to the patient's body. The third level is when the happiness and euphoria occur. When too much nitrous oxide is administered, the result can be the fourth level, where drowsiness and dreaming happen. The fourth level can yield negative side-effects, which is why our team monitors laughing gas usage very closely for our patients' safety.
If you have questions or concerns about nitrous oxide or other sedation options, call our office and let us explain it to you at your next appointment.