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What is Laughing Gas Anyway? Your Questions Answered


If you’re getting a dental procedure in the near future, chances are you’ve heard the words ‘nitrous oxide’ and ‘laughing gas’ thrown around a bit. It’s always good to prepare yourself for any procedure, which is why we’ve answered some of the most frequent questions patients ask about this common anesthetic.

What is laughing gas?

“Laughing Gas” is the common name used for nitrous oxide—a safe and effective anesthetic administered with oxygen to dental patients through a mask. It is colorless and nonflammable, and actually has a sweet odor. The mixture will not put you to sleep, but instead simply makes you a bit lightheaded and more comfortable—making certain procedures a bit easier.

How does the dentist administer nitrous oxide?

The process of administering laughing gas is actually quite simple. A mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide is diffused through a mask, and the patient absorbs the anesthetic through the lungs. Patients are asked to simply breath normally, and the sedative effects will begin to set in. You’ll feel a tingling sensation in the arms and legs, and will feel a bit light-headed as well. Ultimately, you’ll begin to feel calmer in just a few minutes. You’ll still be able to communicate with your dentist if needed. Once the procedure is complete, your dentist will simply remove the mask—it will wear off as you breathe normally.

How long have dentists/doctors been using nitrous oxide?

Laughing gas was first discovered by an English scientist named Joseph Priestly in 1793. It has been used for over 150 years now, and is one of the most popularly used anesthetics to this day!

Why do dentists use laughing gas?

There are a number of reasons why nitrous oxide can be beneficial to dentists. For example, it is commonly offered for young patients in order to facilitate relaxation, cooperation, and numbness. It can ease the stress of more involved dental procedures, as well as reduce pain and anxiety for adult patients with lower pain tolerance or mental disabilities.

Is laughing gas harmful?

Laughing gas is very safe when administered by a professional. Most common dangers from nitrous oxide are a result of disorienting effects, such as tripping or falling, but the effects of the gas only last a few minutes after the mask is removed.

What does laughing gas feel like?

Within a minute or so of breathing in the nitrous oxide, you’ll feel a light tingling sensation. Some patients feel as though their limbs are quite heavy, but otherwise you’ll feel a general numbness throughout your body. It creates a dreamlike state that can be slightly disorienting, but you will still be able to hear and respond to your dentist.

What are the advantages of nitrous oxide?

There are quite a few benefits to nitrous oxide. First, it is easily adjustable by your dentist, so the depth of sedation can be altered if it is too much or too little. You’ll also find that laughing gas works quite quickly—taking full effect in around 2 or 3 minutes. Inhalation is safe and does not negatively impact the brain, heart, kidneys, liver, or lungs. Finally, for those who are afraid of needles, there is no injection required for nitrous oxide!

Will I feel sick after using laughing gas?

Luckily, there is no “hangover” after nitrous oxide. As you breath, the gas is eliminated from the body. The process takes about 3 to 5 minutes after the supply is stopped. This means you will be able to drive home safely after laughing gas is administered during the procedure.

Have any more questions for us or need to schedule a procedure at our convenient Naperville office? Contact Caputo Dental today to set up an appointment!

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