The health of your child is no laughing matter, which is why we understand that you probably have questions about the safety of using nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas,” on your child during dental procedures. Nitrous oxide is a mild anesthesia commonly used by dentists to relieve anxiety and discomfort during dental procedures. It is a colorless, odorless gas that gives off a light, sweet smell and produces a feeling of euphoria and well-being.
When is Nitrous Oxide Use Appropriate for Children?
Nitrous oxide has been deemed safe for use in children by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and may be deemed appropriate by your pediatric dentist if your child:
- Experiences fear and anxiety about dentist visits and procedures
- Has a strong gag reflex that interferes with your dentist’s ability to perform routine procedures
- Has special health care needs
- Cannot undergo local anesthesia
- Will be undergoing a prolonged dental procedure
Small doses of nitrous oxide are completely harmless and have been used safely in pediatric dentistry for more than a decade. In fact, not only is the use of nitrous oxide harmless, it may be safer than not using it. If your child is afraid of the dentist or experiences physical discomfort from an overactive gag reflex or a sore jaw, they may struggle against dental procedures, which could lead to an injury. Even if they just have a short attention span or difficulty following instructions, they could lose focus and turn suddenly, move their heads or shut their mouths, all of which are dangerous with dental tools and your dentist’s fingers in proximity.
Nitrous oxide relaxes and soothes, helping your child remain calm during routine cleanings or fillings. Beyond their physical safety, using nitrous oxide to encourage a calm and happy dental experience can create positive associations with dentist visits and, therefore, better overall dental care.
How Will My Child Receive Nitrous Oxide?
Pediatric nitrous oxide is delivered with a small face mask that covers the nose. Your dentist will ask your child to breathe deeply through their nose, not their mouth. As the gas works, your child should become visibly calmer and less nervous. Your child will remain awake while under the influence of nitrous oxide and will be able to interact with you and your dentist.
The effects of nitrous oxide wear off quickly, and once the dental procedure concludes, your dentist will flush it from your child’s system with a little oxygen, which is also delivered through a face mask. The most common side effect of nitrous oxide is mild nausea, so prepare for your child’s visit to the dentist by only feeding them liquids or a very light meal for a few hours before their appointment.
If your child is nervous about visiting the dentist, has anxiety or ADHD, or experiences tooth sensitivity or other oral discomforts, nitrous oxide may be able to make their visit to the dentist more comfortable. If you have any questions about the safety of nitrous oxide, ask an experienced kids dentist like the ones at Wright Smiles! We are currently taking new patients and are happy to answer all of your questions about your child’s next trip to the dentist.