As a dentist, you may get patients who have a healthy fear of getting their teeth cleaned. From the needles to the drills to the long surgeries, more than 75% of Americans have a fear of going to the dentist’s office and having some sort of dental procedure done. But thankfully, there’s a way to help your patients get through their next filling or root canal: nitrous oxide.


What Is Nitrous Oxide?

You probably know nitrous oxide (N2O) as happy gas or laughing gas. This odorless, colorless, non-flammable gas can help patients during dental and medical treatments. Used in dentistry for over 100 years, nitrous oxide serves both as a safe anesthetic and relaxant.

Nitrous oxide is always given in conjunction with oxygen. Typically administered through a fitted mask over the nose, the nitrous oxide is breathed in normally. Patients should feel the relaxing effects of the laughing gas within minutes. Since N2O creates a state of lowered inhibition, it leads many patients to giggle, which is where it gets its common nickname.


Benefits of Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide is one of the most commonly used gas-form anesthetics in the world, particularly in dental offices. But why? As it turns out, N2O comes with a host of benefits, such as:

  1. Wide Variety of Applications
    Administered to over two billion patients to date, nitrous oxide is widely used for many different applications. Used for general anesthesia, procedural sedation, dental anesthesia, anxiety relief, and more, N2O’s properties can help your patients to feel relaxed and at ease during dental appointments and procedures.
  2. Safe and Effective
    Non-addictive and non-allergic, many dentists choose nitrous oxide because it is one of the safest and most effective methods of anesthesia out there. Alone, nitrous oxide can be dangerous, causing hypoxia or dangerous side effects. But when combined with oxygen, you get a better way to reduce anxiety, sedate, reduce pain and ensure effective communication for your patients. N2O acts quickly and does not put patients to sleep, allowing you to speak to your patients during procedures. This gas also increases the safety of dental procedures because it can eliminate the gag reflex that occurs among many patients. Finally, N2O helps to keep patients in a still, relaxed state, allowing for better care.
  3. Minimal Side Effects
    Most patients have minimal reactions to laughing gas since it is so safe. However, side effects can occur, especially if the nitrous oxide levels rise too high or if the amount being inhaled quickly changes. The California Dental Association (CDA) has listed several side effects, including:
    • Headaches
    • Shivering
    • Excessive sweating
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Sleepiness

    But there are steps you can take as a dentist to help patients avoid these side effects. When the nitrous oxide is turned off, be sure that patients receive oxygen for at least five minutes afterward to help them avoid headaches. The oxygen rids the remaining gas from the lungs while simultaneously helping the patient become more alert and awake. To prevent nausea and vomiting, advise patients to eat lightly prior to their procedure and to avoid large meals for up to three hours afterward.

  4. Perfect for All Ages
    Nitrous oxide is seen as a safe anesthetic for patients of all ages. Many children and adults enjoy the feeling they get from N2O, reporting feelings of tingling or giddiness. Aside from producing good feelings and reducing pain, nitrous oxide can help to expedite procedures that require extended periods of stillness, particularly for children. However, nitrous oxide is not recommended for patients who might be pregnant, have B12 deficiencies or have chronic pulmonary disease.
  5. Little to No Downtime
    While super effective, the effects of N2O only take a couple of minutes to dissipate, meaning little to no downtime for patients. Most are able to return to their daily lives after an appointment, with little to no side effects


Overall, nitrous oxide proves to be a useful tool for dentists and their dental practices, particularly when it comes to easing anxiety and pain. If you think your dental practice could benefit from using nitrous oxide with your patients, contact CalOx today. For over 85 years, we’ve been providing medical-grade nitrous oxide for dental practices, veterinary practices, medical and dermatology clinics, and food processing applications throughout Southern California. From tanks, piping and delivery equipment to service, maintenance and training that you or your staff might need, we can help you with all of your nitrous oxide needs.