Is Nitrous Oxide Safe for my child to use during a dental visit?
The bottom line is that dental sedation, especially with nitrous oxide, is incredibly safe, even for children. Most dentists offer nitrous oxide as a treatment option for gentle sedation. It can help calm and relax your child, making their dental procedure go much more smoothly. Both you and your child will have less stress throughout their dental work. You will appreciate just how comfortable this gas can make your child’s experience. If you have further concerns, then you can talk to your pediatric dentist ahead of time
As each child is different, your dentist will want to review your child’s health history and any other concerns before the procedure. And although dental sedation is very safe, many considerations go into choosing the options for each treatment. Consult with your pediatric dentist to determine the ideal choices for your child.
What will my child feel like?
Nitrous oxide, when breathed in continuously, creates a mild, relaxing sedative effect. The nitrous oxide relaxes the child without putting them to sleep. The gas works almost immediately, with drowsiness setting in within the first two to three minutes. Nitrous oxide is given at a controlled rate throughout the whole procedure. They may feel a little lightheaded, tingly or experience a floating sensation. It is also called “laughing gas” due to the relaxed, It may also give them a giggly feeling, which is why it is sometimes referred to as “laughing gas”. It is the least invasive type of sedation used by dentists, and is easily titrated or adjusted, depending on how a child responds to the gas. Additionally, it wears off within minutes after turned off and leaves no residual effects.
Some children may be nervous about going to the dentist, either for their cleaning or to have work done, but gently sedating your child for dentistry with nitrous oxide can be an excellent option to ease their nerves. If your dentist’s office will be using nitrous oxide sedation for your child’s procedure, the dentist or hygienist will give your child a special breathing mask to inhale the gas. We usually use a scented Chapstick in the nasal hood that your child can choose. These flavors can range from your favorite go-to ice cream flavors, to your favorite fruit! Generally, the gas will be administered a few minutes before beginning any part of the visit, and will continually breathe in through the nasal mask until they have completed treatment. Dental professionals conduct routine, ongoing visual safety checks on vital signs to ensure the health and safety of your child.
Your child should feel calmer and more relaxed during the procedure, but will not go into a deep sleep, as with other types of sedation. We have TV in each room, so your child can watch their favorite show, while completing the task at hand with ease and comfort. Once the nitrous oxide is turned off, your child will breathe 100% pure oxygen for several minutes to help flush any residual nitrous oxide out of their lungs.
Even though there have been so many advances in pediatric dentistry, it’s not possible to eliminate pressure, pain or discomfort in every case. Using this type of sedation will help your child to relax, allowing the dentist to work carefully and without any resistance. This results in a safer and more comfortable experience.
You’ll be able to be in the room while your child is receiving the nitrous oxide, and often for the whole dental procedure (unless you are pregnant), so you can reassure them. Having you close by or holding their hand can be a great comfort to your child.
What are the side effects of using Nitrous Oxide?
Nitrous oxide is very gentle and safe and usually wears off quickly, typically within minutes. However, as with any drug, some side effects are possible.
Short-term side effects: Most side effects of nitrous oxide are uncommon and occur from inhaling too much of the gas or with frequent fluctuations, which is why we are trained in its usage and monitor each child throughout the procedure. This excess can result in nausea and vomiting, sweating, shivering and feelings of fatigue or dizziness. Side effects are generally mild and go away quickly as oxygen is given and the sedative wears off. Children regain full alertness soon after the gas is turned off.
Long-term side effects: Because the gas wears off quickly, there are generally no long-term side effects. If your child experiences any unusual or longer-lasting issues, contact your doctor or dentist right away.
Preparing my child for Nitrous Oxide
It may be helpful to discuss what to expect with your child before you go in for the appointment. When explaining to your child, use honesty and clear language that they will understand without evoking fear. Let them know that you will be close by, and encourage them not to be afraid. This preparation can help alleviate some of your child’s fears.
If you feel more comfortable, we always review with the child what is about to happen in terms they will understand. We used terminology like “ice-cream nose” or piggy nose, to create a sense of fun and familiarity with the usage of the nasal mask.
Fasting before the procedure is not necessary for nitrous oxide sedation, unlike other types of sedation. A light meal beforehand is allowed. We will review with you to uncover any recent changes in the child’s health that may deter the use of the nitrous for that visit, such as asthma flair-ups.
What if the Nitrous Oxide doesn’t help?
There are other forms of sedation that can be considered– oral conscious sedation, IV sedation, or general anesthesia. These have a higher risk of complication and side effects compared to sedation with nitrous oxide alone. It is essential that an accurate medical history be given at the time of your child’s dental visit, as certain patients may not be good candidates for the above listed types of sedation. We do offer general anesthesia, with our board-certified dental anesthesiologist in-office, for those children needing comprehensive treatment which they may not be able to complete under routine dental settings, either due to fear or special needs.
We can discuss any of these options with you and review the details of the procedure, along with your child’s health history, so you can make informed choices together regarding pediatric dental sedation safety for your children.