Nitrous Oxide at the Dentist – Does My Child Need It?

Child receiving nitrous oxideDental procedures can cause anxiety in anyone, but they can be especially scary for young children. Nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas,” is often administered to relax patients and ease them of their anxiety during the treatment. If your child has troubles during dental treatments, or has to undergo a lengthy procedure, nitrous oxide is a safe and effective way to calm their nerves and ensure that the procedure goes smoothly and successfully.

Nitrous oxide is a colorless, non-flammable gas with a faint sweet smell. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry confirms that nitrous oxide is completely safe for children to use. Not only is it an effective technique in reducing anxiety, it also acts as a pain reliever, reducing any discomfort that can come with certain procedures as well.

Generally, children undergo the administration of nitrous oxide with acceptance and ease. The recommendations for use of nitrous oxide, as stated by the AADP, include:

  • Patients who are fearful or anxious
  • Rambunctious patients
  • Patients whose gag reflex interferes with dental care
  • Patients with special health care needs
  • Patients who are unable to obtain numbness from a local anesthetic
  • Patients (especially children) undergoing a lengthy procedure

If your child falls under any of these categories, your dentist may recommend the use of nitrous oxide during a procedure. Your child’s medical history will be reviewed before given nitrous oxide to ensure there will be no complications. Only a licensed practitioner can be responsible in administering nitrous oxide. The administration is done in a safe and controlled manner:

  • First, the practitioner finds the proper sized nasal hood to fit over the patient’s nose
  • The flow of nitrous oxide is released at a controlled rate, easing the patient into sedation
  • The patient is continuously monitored to ensure safe administration until the procedure is done

Don’t be alarmed if your child acts a little loopy because of the nitrous oxide. The gas puts the patient in a euphoric state of mind, hence why it is often referred to as “laughing gas.” These effects go away quickly after the gas is removed.

Sedation dentistry, especially nitrous oxide, is quite common and is a safe solution to performing dental procedures on children who might not be able to undergo certain procedures otherwise. Talk to your dentist and see if nitrous oxide is a good choice for your child’s next dental procedure.

About the Author

I am a family dentist who treats children as well as adults. Making smiles people love, extreme makeovers and complex dental reconstruction is our niche including implants, TMJ, orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry. As a participant in the blog, I will be offering dental perspectives on pediatric safety and health care options on a regular basis. I can be reached at Blessings to all! Dr Williams is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


3 Responses to “Nitrous Oxide at the Dentist – Does My Child Need It?”

  1. Lucila Tabakhi says:

    Hi Doc,

    Is the regular use of Nitrous Oxide safe for kids? My son has 6 cavities and has a gagging reflex. We are planning to take cavities down, 2 by 2 – which means he will use laughing gas several times.

    I appreciate your advice, thank you!

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