Nitrous oxide is simply a gas which you can breathe in and breathe out. It's colorless, sweet smelling, and non-irritating, and it allows for safer, quicker, and more comfortable dental care. It allows our patients to breathe a combination of nitrous oxide and oxygen while enjoying a remarkable depth of relaxation. It virtually eliminates the fear, nervousness, and tension associated with dental procedures. You remain in complete control, you are conscious, and you can follow directions.
What are the advantages? Laughing gas, which is what nitrous oxide is sometimes referred to, works very rapidly. It reaches the brain within 20 seconds, and relaxation and painkilling properties develop after two or three minutes.
The depth of sedation can be altered from moment to moment allowing us to increase or decrease the depth of sedation. Other sedation techniques don't allow for this. For example, with intravenous (IV) sedation it is easy to deepen the level of sedation but difficult to lessen it. With gas the effects are almost instantaneous. Other sedation techniques have a fixed duration of action because the effects of pills or IV drugs last for a specific span of time whereas gas can be given for the exact time span it's needed for. It can also be switched off when not needed and then switched on again. Although to avoid a roller coaster effect you shouldn't do this too abruptly.
With nitrous oxide it is easy to give incremental doses until the desired action is obtained. This is called titration. We have virtually absolute control over the action of the drug preventing the possibility of accidental overdoses. While giving incremental doses is possible with IV sedation, it's not possible with oral sedation. As a result, oral sedation can be bit of a hit and miss affair. For certain procedures, especially those involving soft tissues such as scaling and root planing, inhalation sedation such as nitrous oxide may be used instead of local anesthesia. Nitrous oxide acts as a painkiller, however, its pain relieving effects may vary from person to person.