FAQs and Answers About Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide, also called laughing gas, is perhaps the most well-known type of sedation dentistry. Your dentist might recommend nitrous oxide for you if you are a little nervous about receiving dental care. If you’re very nervous, or you’re having oral surgery done, then your dentist might recommend a deeper level of sedation instead.

What exactly is nitrous oxide?

A typical formulation of nitrous oxide consists of 50% oxygen and 50% nitrous oxide (N2O). Nitrous oxide is breathed in through a special mask. From the alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs), the gas enters the bloodstream. It’s not understood exactly how nitrous oxide works, but scientists are pretty sure it works by inhibiting certain receptors in the brain, while stimulating other receptors, called parasympathetic GABA receptors. It also reduces perceptions of pain.

Is nitrous oxide safe for children?

Yes. In fact, dentists typically prefer to administer nitrous oxide to children compared to deeper levels of sedation. This is because it has an excellent safety profile.

Why are patients given oxygen after nitrous oxide?

It’s common to administer 100% oxygen to patients once they are no longer breathing in nitrous oxide. The oxygen therapy eliminates any lingering nitrous oxide in the lungs, while helping patients become more alert. The oxygen therapy also prevents headaches, which can sometimes be caused by nitrous oxide.

Who shouldn’t receive laughing gas?

Although nitrous oxide is safe for most people, you should always tell your dentist about your health history first. It’s not recommended for women in their first trimester of pregnancy. Additionally, nitrous oxide is generally contraindicated for people with:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase deficiency
  • Cobalamin deficiency
  • History of substance abuse

Laughing gas may also be contraindicated in people who are receiving treatment with bleomycin sulfate.

Nitrous oxide is one of the many sedation dentistry options we offer here at Park 56 Dental. Our dentists in NYC are committed to making your experience as positive and pleasant as possible. New and current patients can get in touch by calling (646) 783-3529.