Dr. Shnall's Dental Blog
Help for the Fearful Dental Patient: Nitrous Oxide Sedation
By Dr. Jeff Shnall
Fear of going to the dentist is extremely common.
Research has shown that approximately 8% of Americans avoid visiting the dentist due to fearfulness, while approximately 20% will only go when they are in pain. (Source: Dr. Peter Milgrom, Director of Dental Fears REsearch Clinic at University of Washington). These numbers are similar for Canadians.
However, there is a simple, effective way to eliminate fear of dental treatment that has been around for over a century but is underused: nitrous oxide sedation.
Nitrous oxide is a colourless odorless gas that is also known as “laughing gas.” I will use both terms interchangeably in this article.
Whenever I meet with a new patient I ask if they are nervous about dental treatment and if they are, what aspects of dental treatment make them anxious?
If they are nervous I will ask if they have ever had laughing gas? Most patients report they have heard of laughing gas. Some will tell me they have had it before and it really helps them when they have dental treatment, however a very large percentage of nervous patients tell me they have never had it before.
I am surprised by this as nitrous oxide laughing gas has been used in dentistry to relax patients for over one hundred years, is very safe and for the majority of people very effective.
Many dentists are trained in the use of nitrous oxide but not all are offering it to their patients.
Using Nitrous Oxide in the Dental Office:
The procedure couldn’t be simpler. We place a nose piece on you and ask you to breathe in and out through your nose. Within a few minute you will feel the effect.
How does nitrous oxide make you feel?
Benefits of nitrous oxide sedation
Is there a downside to using nitrous oxide sedation?
To reduce the chance of nausea you should not have a heavy meal before using nitrous oxide. You may have a light meal two hours before the appointment and nothing after that.
There are very few medical conditions that will disallow nitrous oxide from being an option, but one is emphysema. Speak to your dentist to ensure nitrous oxide is safe you.
If you hate sitting in the dentist’s chair or avoid dental appointments out of fear, nitrous oxide may be just what you need.
If it turns out that nitrous oxide isn’t right for you but you feel you do need sedation you could discuss with your dentist the possibility of taking an anti-anxiety drug before your appointment.
If all else fails you could see a dental anesthesiologist would could provide all of your dental treatment while you are asleep.
If you would like more information please feel free to contact our office. If you have any comments on this article please share them with us below.
Dr. Jeff Shnall