Nitrous Oxide for Children
If your child is fearful of the dentist we may recommend nitrous oxide so they can relax during treatment. The process is totally safe and has been administered successfully for over a century to keep patients awake but calm.
How is Nitrous Administered?
Completely safe for children as a form of conscious sedation, nitrous oxide is inhaled through a small mask that fits comfortably over a child’s nose. The gas is mixed with oxygen, and both gases are always kept at a level that is safe for the body. In just a few minutes, the patient may start to experience a floating sensation, and perhaps some tingling in the hands and feet. That’s a sign that the sedation is working. Once it has been verified that your child is calm and comfortable and that the dose is correct, the dental procedure can begin.
Nitrous oxide itself isn’t a substitute for a local anesthetic in children or adults as it’s considered an anxiolytic, which means it makes anxiety disappear. However, for some pediatric procedures, a child receiving nitrous oxide may not need an anesthetic injection. Even if they do need a numbing shot, they won’t mind at all while under sedation with nitrous oxide. Yet they won’t be asleep — they’ll be able to speak, be aware of what’s going on, and they will remain in control during the procedure. In fact, the dose can be fine-tuned to just the level of sedation they need to make them comfortable yet alert.
When the procedure is over, the flow of nitrous oxide is decreased to zero, and the oxygen will be increased. After resting in the chair for a few minutes, the child will feel completely normal.
Who Can Benefit From Nitrous?
Any child whose anxiety might otherwise keep them out of the dental chair can benefit from conscious sedation with nitrous oxide. Before beginning treatment, we will gather a complete medical history, including any medications your child is taking. We will make sure that your child feels safe and comfortable. In fact, we sometimes create a fantasy of your child being an airplane pilot wearing their flight mask to encourage their imagination so that they have a good time during treatment. Afterward, they will likely not remember a thing.