Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas)
Nitrous oxide analgesia is a big step in alleviating anxiety in the dental chair–and there is no charge for its use in our office. (One of my earliest philosophical decisions when I opened my practice was to try and make the dental visit as comfortable as possible, as well as affordable. Years ago I started practicing dentistry in the office of another dentist who used to charge a nominal fee to give a shot of Novocaine. I witnessed many a patient with white knuckles trying to save a dollar or two, and it never made sense to me. To my mind, if a patient was more comfortable in the chair, hopefully they would return for another visit.) Called laughing gas in the old days, it is a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide (with a higher oxygen concentration than you would normally get breathing room air). It relaxes people and only has an effect while breathing the gas mixture–minutes after turning off the gas mixture, before you even leave the office, you are back to normal with no side effects. At no point does one lose consciousness (although we have had patients relax sufficiently [often to their amazement] when they fall asleep while I’m still working on them). The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry claims it may be the “safest sedative in dentistry”, raising the pain threshold and making the time appear to move more quickly. It does NOT replace local anesthetic, but it is an anxiety reducing agent which makes coming to the dentist just a little bit more pleasant than some people anticipate.