We have all heard of happy gas, but what is it and why is it used in a dental environment? well, happy gas is actually a gas called nitrous oxide. in a dental environment, nitrous oxide can be inhaled, in combination with oxygen, to help calm a patient down.
Nitrous Oxide (N2O) is basically a gas that has no colour nor smell, and doesn’t irritate. It is commonly used for dental sedation. It is also known as relative analgesia, RA, nitrous, happy gas or laughing gas. Although nitrous can be inhaled at 100% concentration for short periods, it is now only used in a mixture with oxygen. Generally the standard mix is 70% Oxygen and 30% Nitrous Oxide.
Depending on the concentration and length of administration of N2O, four levels of sedation can be experienced (after an initial feeling of light-headedness):
At first you may experience a tingling sensation, especially in the arms, fingers and legs, or a feeling of vibration (“parasthesia”), quickly followed by a warming sensation and feelings of well-being, euphoria and/or floating. During heavier sedation, your hearing may dissolve into a constant, electronic-like throbbing. At deeper levels of sedation, sleepiness and difficulty speaking or keeping one’s eyes open or speak can occur. Should nausea set in, it may mean you are over-sedated.
As people experience things in different ways, should you ever experience any unpleasant symptoms, then let us know and we can adjust the concentration of N2O.
In order to administer N2O, we place a mask over the patient’s nose. The mask is also connected to a vacuum that sucks away any waste or extra gas. All in all, nitrous is a good, safe way to experience dental sedation.
The advantages of N2O:
- Works rapidly
- Can be altered from moment to moment, so that the level of sedation can be increased and decreased.
- Has no hangover effect – the gas is eliminated from the body within 3-5 minutes after the gas supply is stopped.
- Has a variable duration of action, unlike other techniques such as pills or intravenous drugs.
- For certain procedures – it may be possible to use nitrous instead of local anaesthesia.
- It’s very safe and has few side effects.
- Can be used to eliminate or reduce gagging.