Anyone who has knowledge of automotive racing – preferably street racing – will associate nitrous oxide with boosting the engine and possibly busting the manifold in the process. However, in the field of dentistry, a different form of N2O is used to temporarily relax patients. An operating room in the sedation dental practice may have one tank near the chair.
Also known as laughing gas or hippy crack, N2O gives a sweet tingy smell that allows the patient to easily calm down. A consultation with the dentist will help determine the patient’s viability for the procedure. A look at the patient’s medical history can reveal some notable clues, such as recent bouts of colds, allergies or drug reactions, and existing medication. The patient will also have a test fit of breathing apparatus.
N2O can be recommended under certain conditions, such as when the patient has gag reflexes during a treatment, or when a local anesthesia isn’t available. It is also used when there’s visible anxiety in the patient or when the dental procedure that will be done requires him to be in the chair for a long period, which could create anxiety or nervousness.
During the procedure itself, the dental practitioner will initially use a 100% burst of oxygen for up to two minutes and gradually adjust the mixture to include 30% N2O. Once the session is done, another full burst of oxygen is needed before the patient can go into post-recovery.