Pros and Cons of Laughing Gas


Don’t let the name fool you. Receiving laughing gas at a dentist office won’t actually result in a fit of uncontrollable cackling. The scientific name for laughing gas is nitrous oxide. It’s a chemical compound composed of nitrogen and oxygen. The gas is colorless, odorless, and can act as a sedative during dental procedures.

But, is it the right sedative for you? Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of the use of laughing gas in the dentist’s office.

It Decreases Anxiety

Not everyone walks into a dental office with a sense of calm and confidence. Bad past experiences or misconceptions about dentists can leave you feeling nervous about the procedure, whether it’s dental filling or a root canal.

When administered, laughing gas relaxes you, easing you into a sense of euphoria and well-being. Once your nerves are calmed, the dentist can get to work.

It’s Easy to Administer, But Potentially Uncomfortable

Afraid of needles? The nitrous oxide itself won’t be administered via injection. Instead, you’ll breathe the gas in through a mask.

Of course, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of breathing in a compound this way. If this is the case, talk to your dentist about possible alternatives.

It’s a Weak Anesthetic

Nitrous oxide is a fairly weak anesthetic. So, depending on the procedure being completed, the dentist may need to use laughing gas in combination with an anesthetic to control pain. When both are used, you’ll feel at ease as well as numb to pain. Anesthetic options include topical, injection, electronically-delivered anesthesia, and general anesthesia, in which you are “put to sleep” throughout the operation.

There’s a Chance You’ll Experience Negative Side Effects

In most cases, patients don’t experience any negative side effects at all. However, in rare instances, headaches, nausea, shivering, and fatigue may occur. These side effects are usually the result of a dentist or staff member administering too much nitrous oxide.  

It Wears Off Quickly

You might feel a little tired after the procedure, but this shouldn’t pose much of a problem. Laughing gas wears off quickly once the intake is cut off. Depending on the effects of the procedure or other anesthesia, you may be able to drive yourself home from the dentist office. You’ll also be able to eat within 12 hours after your visit. But, keep in mind that as you recover from certain types of dental surgeries, you may need to limit your diet to soft foods. 

It’s Not Suitable for Everyone

It’s generally safe to administer laughing gas to patients. However, the dentist may need to reconsider its use based on your specific medical history. For example, if you struggle with drug dependency, have a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, or are in the first trimester of pregnancy, the dentist may suggest a different approach. In addition, if you’re already receiving treatment with bleomycin sulfate, nitrous oxide won’t be an option.

To learn more about nitrous oxide and other common dental sedatives and procedures, reach out to Flower Dental today.