Some dental procedures require sedation. In fact, some major procedures mean that the patient must be placed under a general anesthetic, which involves having your breathing and vital signs monitored throughout the process. For the majority of any required procedures, your sedation dentistry needs are unlikely to warrant general anesthesia. It's more probable that you'll simply need very mild sedation. Nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas) is commonly used for this purpose. What can you expect when you're dosed with nitrous oxide?

A Light Sedative

Nitrous oxide acts as a mild antidepressant, affecting the central nervous system and delaying the body's reaction to stimuli. This means it's effective in masking minor pain and discomfort, while also inducing a sense of calmness. Although still classed as a sedative, it's more of a relaxant. You remain fully conscious after consuming nitrous oxide, as the substance is only a light sedative.

Breathe Normally

As nitrous oxide is a gas, it's consumed via breathing. The gas cylinder is connected to a mask placed over your mouth and nose. You simply breathe normally for a predetermined amount of time to inhale the correct dosage. It's important to breathe normally, as inhaling too quickly can result in minor toxicity, potentially causing flu-like symptoms such as shivering and sweating. Report any such signs to your dentist, although any discomfort should pass once your breathing is controlled. The effects are more or less immediate.

Extra Dosage

Depending on the nature of your required dental work (along with the expected length of time needed to complete this work), you might be dosed with additional nitrous oxide during your dental procedure. Although nitrous oxide will leave your body of its own accord, your dentist has the ability to speed up this process when their work is finished.

Reversing the Effects

Once your dental work has been completed, you may be given oxygen. This flushes the remaining nitrous oxide out of your body, allowing the effects of the gas to pass almost immediately. Some mild grogginess and dizziness are to be expected. There's usually no risk in driving yourself home after being dosed with nitrous oxide, but you may wish to ask a family member or friend to transport you safely home. It's unlikely that there will be any lingering aftereffects from the gas, but be sure to contact your dentist if you have any concerns. 

Sedation is very common in modern dentistry, and nitrous oxide is about one of the most common options. Receiving laughing gas prior to a dental procedure is incredibly straightforward, although it can be helpful to know just what to expect. Contact a dentist to learn more about sedation dentistry