Why is Nitrous Oxide Used in Dentistry?

The Use of Nitrous Oxide in Dentistry to Reduce Anxiety Effectively

According to the recent statistics, approximately 75% of the American population has reported feeling fear of going to the dentist office and having some sort of dental procedure being performed. Of this 75 %, 5 to 10% have reported feeling such fear that does not allow them to go to their dentist and ask for help or even schedule a regular check-up. So the question is – what can be done for the fear of these patients to go away because simply avoiding your dentist is never the answer. The majority of dental treatments are painless, however, there are some that cause mild to more severe pain to be felt. It is cases like these that cause fear to develop. In today’s article, we want to take a look at how anxiety can affect a person’s overall dental care and also consider how the anxiety that the patient is experiencing can be relieved with the use of nitrous oxide.

Anxiety and dental care

Anxiety is a very common mental disorder, but it is not only individuals that do suffer from one of these disorders that may experience anxious feelings when they think about going to the dentist. There are many factors in the dentist’s office that can contribute to anxiety in a patient. One particular factor that most people find extremely fearful is the sounds that you hear when you sit in the waiting room, awaiting your turn to lie down on the chair and open your mouth. These sounds are often horrific and can make a person feel stressed and anxious, especially when the dentist calls out their name.

It is not only the sounds that you hear in a dentist’s office that contributes to anxiety in a patient. There are many other factors. For many people, the idea of the dentist working in their mouth can lead to different kinds of fears. The equipment that the dentist needs to use for certain procedures, such as pliers or a drill, can also cause people to experience fear and anxiety.

For some people, anxiety caused by the thought of having to go to the dentist can be so bad that they would rather choose to live with a severely painful tooth instead of going to the dentist. This makes anxiety is a very concerning problem in the general population. There are, however, solutions that can help with reducing these anxiety symptoms and help the patient feel more comfortable. Different solutions are available, but here, we would like to take a look at one particularly popular option – the use of nitrous oxide.

What is Nitrous oxide?

Nitrous oxide, also known as the laughing gas due to its euphoric and hysterical effects, is a commonly used gas for inhalation anesthesia. The Nitrous oxide provides [i]analgesia and sometimes even amnesia. The Nitrous oxide is a colorless, odorless gas with a slightly sweet taste that is inhaled by the patient by using a small mask. The laughing gas is always given alongside with oxygen. The lack of side effects and major risks and because the Nitrous oxide is considered to be safe[ii], the Nitrous oxide is among the most commonly used gas-form anesthetic in the world right now. The laughing gas is used as a safe anesthetic for both children and adults.

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The use of Nitrous oxide in dentistry

Nitrous oxide has been used in dentistry for over one hundred years, and with a very good reason, that is. Nitrous oxide is breathed throughout the entire dental procedure in order to serve as an anesthetic so pain and fear would not be felt by the patient since the patient is supposed to feel relaxed and calm with the help of the laughing gas thanks to the Nitrous oxide’s analgesic [iii]effects. Some patients might even giggle, which is good because it means that the patient is completely relaxed and does not feel any pain[iv].

The good thing about Nitrous oxide is that the laughing gas acts fast, causing anesthesia [v]in a couple of minutes. It also takes only a couple of minutes for its effects to go away, so the patient is able to go back to his/her normal life after the procedure and even drive a car. The laughing gas is not only safe and effective, but it also increases the safety of the dental procedure itself because in most cases it eliminated the gag reflex that occurs among many patients but also by enabling the patient to stay still and calm and avoid any unwanted movements during the procedure.

How safe is nitrous oxide really?

In general, nitrous oxide is usually considered to be a safe option for providing a relief of anxiety to patients undergoing certain types of dental procedures. At the same time, it is important for patients to know that this type of anesthesia is not without its possible side-effects. Some patients have experienced side-effects while undergoing nitrous oxide and after the procedure has been performed. Neurological problems are relatively common, which may include forgetfulness, fatigue and brain fog. Nitrous oxide has also been linked to the possible development of Fibromyalgia.

Another very concerning fact about nitrous oxide is that the use of this gas can deplete vitamin B12 levels in the patient. This may lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency, which can cause a large number of potential adverse effects in the patient’s body. Vitamin B12 is a very important nutrient that is needed for many bodily functions and to support a healthy mind. With a deficiency in this vitamin, the patient can experience certain mental changes and other possible symptoms.

Some patients may be at a higher risk of suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency due to nitrous oxide. This includes vegetarians, vegans, children diagnosed with autism, individuals who suffer from Fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as people who frequently take medication to treat acid reflux.

Conclusion

If you want to put a stop to your fear and anxiety every time when you sit in the chair at your dentist’s office then consider accepting the Nitrous oxide – the laughing gas, as an anesthetic. This powerful, yet totally safe gas is the perfect anesthetic for those of you who are dealing with mild to severe anxiety whenever you think about going to the dentist. For over one hundred years the laughing gas has helped millions and millions of patients and dentists to take a good care of their oral health without having to deal with fear.

References

[i] Emmanouil DE, Quock RM, (2007), Advances in understanding the actions of Nitrous oxide, Anesthesia Progress 54(1): 9–18
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1821130/

[ii] Becker DE, Rosenberg M, (2008), Nitrous oxide and the inhalation anesthetics, Anesthesia Progress 55(4): 124–131
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2614651/

[iii] Mohn R, Asir VD, Shanmugapriyan, Ebenezr V, Dakir A, Balakrishnan, Jacob J, (2015), Nitrousoxide as a conscious sedative in minor oral surgical procedure, Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences 7(Suppl 1): S248–S250
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4439684/

[iv] Kanagasundaram S, Lane L, Cavalleto B, Keneally J, Cooper M, (2001), Efficiency and safety of nitrous oxide in alleveting pain and anxiety during painful procedures, Archives of Disease in Childhood 84(6): 492–495
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1718795/

[v] Kaufman E, Kadari A, Galili D, Garfunkel A, (1982), Nitrous oxide analgesia in selected dental patients, Anesthesia Progress 29(3): 78–80
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515463/

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