Is Nitrous Oxide Safe for Kids?

Did you know that nitrous oxide has been used in dental procedures for 100 years? It’s an extremely safe way to make sure your child is comfortable during otherwise uncomfortable dental procedures such as fillings, crowns, and extractions. Nitrous oxide is a mild sedative that can be easily controlled, does not affect heart rate, and has no ill effects on the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain. Nitrous oxide has no odor and, used in combination with oxygen, does not in any way disrupt normal breathing. The ratio of nitrous oxide to oxygen is about 30% to 70%, so the effect is very gentle.

Nitrous oxide, more commonly known as “laughing gas,” is the mildest form of sedation that we use during dental procedures. For this reason, it is very commonly used with children. If your child needs nitrous oxide, we simply fit a small mask over his nose and request that he breathe normally. As long as your child is comfortable wearing the soft mask and breathing through his nose, he should have no problem with the nitrous oxide. Because nitrous oxide is so safe and easy to use, we can even use it for simple cleanings if your child is very anxious or has had a negative experience at the dentist’s in the past. However, it is used most commonly for more involved procedures like filling cavities.

Your child will not feel overly drowsy, simply relaxed, happy and comfortable. Nitrous oxide is called “laughing gas” because patients often feel a little giddy and get the “giggles”. It will not prevent your child from understanding and responding to instructions at all points during the visit. His arms or legs may feel heavy, but he will have no problem moving. The effects of nitrous oxide go away just a few minutes after the mask is removed, so there is little to no recovery time before your child is feeling back to normal.

Nitrous oxide does not significantly take away sensation for your child, it simply reduces pain and helps to ease feelings of fear and anxiety about the procedure and about having to sit in the dentist’s chair for a longer period of time than usual. During any invasive or complex dental procedure, we use local anesthesia at the site to numb the tooth (in addition to the pain-relieving effects of laughing gas) so your child will feel perfectly comfortable.

If your child is anxious about visiting the dentist, or is coming in for a filling or other procedure, we’ll explain in kid-friendly terms what we’re going to do, why the laughing gas will help relax them, and how it will make them feel. Before we begin, both you and your child should feel completely comfortable and prepared for us to begin the procedure or cleaning using nitrous oxide. Often, laughing gas helps children feel better about coming back to the dentist for the next visit!