In dentistry, nitrous oxide, which is a colorless and odorless gas, can be used to alleviate anxiety during dental treatments. Nitrous oxide may also be used by other healthcare professionals to relieve pain and act as a light sedative.
Nitrous oxide, better known as the “laughing gas” by the general public, has the effect of slowing down a person’s reaction speed and causing them to feel euphoric. Once someone has inhaled nitrous oxide, it is not long before they begin to experience the effects of the gas. When people stop using it, the effects begin to fade almost immediately.
Nitrous Oxide should not be confused with IV Sedation, in which the patient receives general anesthesia through an IV and is “asleep” during the surgery. IV Sedation is a type of general anesthesia that is administered through an IV.
Preparing for a Procedure Using Nitrous Oxide
The majority of the time, patients who will be receiving Nitrous Oxide during their operation will have a separate appointment arranged. Patients are recommended to have little or no food for the two hours prior to their dental appointment because a full stomach may occasionally result in nausea or vomiting during the procedure.
It is recommended that patients or their parents notify the dentist if the patient is suffering from any respiratory ailment that makes breathing via the nose difficult or impossible. Nitrous oxide’s usefulness is limited if you have a congested nose or other respiratory problems.
It is also crucial to inform your dentist of any drugs you or your child may be taking, as well as any changes in your medical history that have occurred since your last appointment.
Effects of Nitrous Oxide
For the first few minutes of the appointment, patients are asked to relax and lie back in the dentist’s chair. After putting a mask over the patient’s nose and turning on the gas, the dentist will examine them. Nitrous oxide’s effects are nearly immediately noticeable. You will smell a subtle, pleasant perfume and feel a sensation of well-being and relaxation as a result of this experience.
While other sedatives put you to sleep, nitrous oxide does not. You are still able to reply to requests and provide answers to queries. You might find yourself speaking more slowly than usual and responding more slowly than usual. In general, you’ll be laid-back and willing to work with others. The injection will be obvious to you, and you may even be aware of it as it is being administered. You, however, are unlikely to care. Your breathing and heartbeat will continue to be normal, and you will maintain complete control over your bodily processes. During their appointment, you may feel slight amnesia and may fall asleep, not remembering everything that occurred during the appointment.
Nitrous oxide is usually considered to be a safe anesthetic for use during medical and dental operations. Procedures for toddlers, children, and adults are among the medical applications. However, like with any medication, there is a possibility of both short- and long-term health consequences. There is also the risk of overdosing on the medication.
Short-term adverse effects are not prevalent, but they can occur in certain cases. The most typical reason for experiencing short-term negative effects is that a person inhales the gas too rapidly or inhales too much of the gas.
When used in this manner, nitrous oxide has several undesirable side effects, including:
- Dizziness or nausea
- cold shivers
- excessive sweating
In the event that a patient has any of these symptoms while breathing nitrous oxide or shortly afterward, they should seek medical assistance immediately.
There is minimal evidence to show that nitrous oxide has any long-term negative consequences on the body.
The majority of the negative effects subside within a few hours of using the gas. However, a person should notify their healthcare practitioner if they encounter any odd side effects or if these symptoms manifest for more than a few hours or for many days following their surgery.
Despite the fact that the average person may not experience any long-term ill effects, prolonged exposure to nitrous oxide or intentional usage of the gas may result in health problems. Anemia or a vitamin B-12 deficiency might result from excessive exposure. These conditions can result in nerve injury, which can cause numbness in a person’s fingers and toes, among other things.
Risk of Overdose
Even though nitrous oxide is generally considered to be extremely safe, there is the risk that someone could overdose on it. The most typical causes of an overdose include receiving too much of the gas at once and being exposed for an extended period.
It is unlikely that a patient may encounter an overdose while under treatment. This is because the amount required to do so is far more than the amount they receive throughout a surgery. However, those employed at practices that utilize or store nitrous oxide are at the greatest risk of long-term or accidental exposure to the gas.
If someone does experience an overdose, they may experience any of the symptoms listed below:
- tightness in the chest
- eyes, throat, and nose irritation
- difficulty breathing – hallucinations
- blue tint to the toes, lips, or fingers
- increased blood pressure and risk of stroke
- increased heart rate
If a person inhales an excessive amount of nitrous oxide at the same time while breathing little or no oxygen, they may suffer brain damage.
Nitrous oxide is a relatively safe chemical that can be used to sedate a person before and during dental and other same-day operations in most situations. On most occasions, the effects of the substance appear and go fast when the gas is started and stopped.
Most side effects are short-lived and disappear when the user stops taking the medication. Individuals who experience long-lasting effects or exhibit symptoms of an allergic response should seek medical assistance right once to avoid further complications.