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  • Writer's pictureDr. Llewelyn A. Paras

Why Some Dentists Don't Use Nitrous Oxide Anymore

Sometimes dental procedures require more than a local or topical anesthetic. These procedures are typically grouped together and called sedation dentistry. Dentists use three common ways to sedate patients: oral conscious sedation, IV sedation, and nitrous oxide.

Nitrous oxide has been used by dentists and surgeons for many years. But its use has declined somewhat in recent years for a few reasons we'll discuss below. As a matter of information, we'll also discuss what this sedative is and how it works.

At Dental Haus, we don’t use nitrous oxide at all, instead opting for the Solea dental laser at our Edmonton clinic. The laser removes the need for common anxiety triggers (needles and drills) for many procedures, allowing our patients to feel relaxed without the use of anesthetics. Read on to learn more about the benefits of laser dentistry.

Dentist putting on a nitrous oxide delivery mask onto a pediatric patient.

What Is Nitrous Oxide?

Also known as "laughing gas," nitrous oxide is a colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas. For its sedative purposes, it's mixed with oxygen before a patient breathes it in. Once inhaled through the nose, it begins reducing anxiety and helps ease discomfort or pain.

Unlike many IV sedatives, laughing gas is not designed to put you to sleep. It acts more as a relaxant. With how prevalent dental anxiety is, this makes it an excellent choice for many dentists.

How Does Nitrous Oxide Affect People?

If you're wondering how nitrous oxide will feel, it's hard to say for sure. Depending on how your body reacts determines your experience. In most cases, you will feel light-headed or tingling in your limbs. A feeling of heaviness is also common. The biggest thing you will likely notice is a calm and relaxed mood.

Does Nitrous Oxide Have Side Effects?

Even something as common as Tylenol has side effects. So it's worth mentioning some of the potential side effects that can accompany nitrous oxide use:

  • Headaches

  • Vomiting

  • Nausea

Only around 5% of people experience these symptoms.

Another potential side effect from the frequent use of laughing gas is anemia. If this is the case, your doctor may recommend a vitamin B12 supplement.

Some people may have other risk factors, but your dentist is the best person to talk to about this, as risks can vary from person to person.

Do Dentists Still Use Nitrous Oxide?

While its use has declined somewhat, laughing gas is still a top choice among dentists who perform sedation dentistry. But for some, the hassle and potential side effects to patients aren't worth the benefit.

For example, if a patient has consumed alcohol recently, that could cause an increased risk of complications. Or suppose they have any nasal congestion, allergies, or a cold. In that case, it may be difficult to administer the gas through the nose.

Another important consideration is the fact that nitrous oxide cannot be used on patients with breathing problems, as administration relies on the airway.

Additionally, there is extra time involved in administering nitrous to a patient properly, as well as when taking them off of it. The nitrous is given as a mix of oxygen and nitrous oxide, so when administering, the percentage of nitrous must be slowly increased until it reaches an effective level. Likewise, when the procedure is completed, the nitrous must be decreased while oxygen is slowly increased at the same time. This increases the total length of time needed for a procedure.

These are some of the examples that show why at Dental Haus we have instead chosen to invest in laser dentistry with the Solea All-Tissue Dental Laser. Not using nitrous oxide means we don’t have to manage the complicated infrastructure and the maintenance involved.

Nitrous Oxide and Oxygen Gauges

Benefits of Laser Dentistry Compared to Nitrous Oxide

Besides reduced anxiety, the Solea dental laser also reduces the time required for many procedures, and has a much faster post-operative healing period. These factors mean that our patients experience a convenient, anxiety free visit to our dental clinic at each appointment.

Some additional benefits of laser dentistry:

  • Reduced pain: The laser emits a beam of light that cuts tissue with precision, producing an analgesic effect, and therefore reducing the need for anesthetics and reducing patient discomfort during procedures. Your mouth will not feel totally numb, but you won’t feel pain.

  • Faster procedures: The laser can quickly and precisely remove tissue, reducing the length of many procedures and allowing patients to return to their normal activities more quickly.

  • Improved accuracy: The laser can be precisely controlled, which helps to minimize the risk of damaging surrounding tissue and improves the overall accuracy of the procedure.

  • Improved healing: Because the laser seals blood vessels and nerve endings as it cuts, patients may experience less swelling, bleeding, and discomfort after a procedure.

  • Reduced need for sutures: In some procedures, the laser seals tissue as it cuts, reducing the need for sutures and speeding up the healing process.

Talk to Your Dentist About Your Options

Modern technology allows our patients to experience a better visit at each appointment, offering them quicker service, while also minimizing potential pain and discomfort depending on the procedure, as well the ability to enjoy an anxiety-free visit to the dentist without having to take any substances for calming.

Give us a call at Dental Haus in Edmonton. Our staff is happy to answer all of your questions and book you in to see one of our dentists to discuss your concerns.

NEW! Needle-Free & Drill-Free Dental Procedures. Book your appointment today!

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