Nitrous oxide/oxygen Nitrous oxide/oxygen (N2O-O2) is a blend of two gases — oxygen and nitrous oxide. It is a safe, effective sedative agent used to calm a patient’s fear of the dental visit and enhance effective communication. Additionally, it works well for people whose gag reflex interferes with dental treatment.
A fitted mask is placed over the nose and, as the patient breathes normally, uptake occurs through the lungs. At the end of treatment, it is eliminated after a short period of breathing oxygen and has no lingering effects.
You will smell a faint, sweet aroma and experience a sense of well-being and relaxation. Since it may produce a feeling of giddiness or euphoria, it is often called “laughing gas.” People sometimes report dreaming and their arms and legs may feel “tingly.” It raises the pain threshold and may even make the time appear to pass quickly. If the sights, sounds or sensations of dental treatment worry you, you may respond more positively with the use of nitrous oxide/oxygen.
Nitrous oxide/oxygen is perhaps the safest sedative in dentistry. It is well tolerated. It has a rapid onset, is reversible, can be adjusted in various concentrations and is non-allergenic. You remain fully conscious — keeps all natural reflexes — when breathing nitrous oxide/oxygen. You will be capable of responding to a question or request. Nitrous oxide/oxygen may also be used in combination with other sedative agents.
You should have little or no food in the two hours preceding the dental visit (occasionally, nausea or vomiting occurs when you have a full stomach). Second, patients with a respiratory condition that makes breathing through the nose difficult may limit the effectiveness of nitrous oxide/oxygen. Third, it may cause problems when used with other medication(s) on the day of the appointment, so be sure to inform your dentist of any medication(s) you may be taking.
Nitrous oxide/oxygen may not be effective for some patients, especially those who have severe anxiety, nasal congestion, or discomfort wearing a nasal mask. Your dentist will review your medical history, level of anxiety, and dental treatment needs and inform you if nitrous oxide/oxygen is recommended.