What is nitrous oxide and is it safe for children?

Our team at McCarthy Dentistry understand that the sights, sounds and sensations at a dental office can be unsettling for some children. One effective technique that we use to comfort your child is to offer the gas nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is a common anesthetic used during many dental procedures.

What is Nitrous Oxide?

Nitrous oxide is an oxide of nitrogen which has a slight sweet odor and taste. During medical or dental procedures, the gas is mixed with oxygen then inhaled through a mask that covers your child’s nose. Within minutes, your child should feel calm and experience an overall sense relaxation. Most children are enthusiastic about the administration of nitrous oxide and report feeling like they are dreaming. Children will be able to breathe on their own, move their limbs, and be conscious enough to hear and respond to our dentist’s questions such as, “Did you remember to brush your teeth today?” Of course they did! All our patients are great brushers! The effects of nitrous oxide disappear shortly after the mask is removed and the drug is quickly eliminated from their body.

Is Nitrous Oxide Safe?

Recreational use of nitrous oxide for its euphoric effects can be dangerous, however, the drug is combined with oxygen at dental offices. This ensures oxygen reaches the brain and prevents dangerous side effects or hypoxia. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recognizes nitrous oxide inhalation as a “safe and effective technique to reduce anxiety, produce analgesia, and enhance effective communication between a patient and healthcare provider.”

Nitrous oxide is non-addictive and non-allergic, however, it may cause nausea in up to ten percent of patients. The drug is not recommended for children with some medical conditions such as chronic pulmonary disease. We recognize that all patients are different and encourage you to talk with Dr. McCarthy about whether nitrous oxide would be a good option for your child.

Our team wants to help all patients overcome dental anxiety, so please, give us a call at McCarthy Dentistry.