Laughing Matter: Kids & Nitrous Oxide

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When he was little, Reading dad David Powell was given Nitrous oxide —laughing gas — at a dental appointment. A family he was carpooling with came to visit him at the dentist’s office. “The only problem,” Powell says, “is that I was hallucinating and they were walking on the ceiling.” He says that although he wasn’t frightened, he does remember being a little perplexed. Now as a parent himself, he can share that experience with his own sons, who “remind me of it every time I have a dental appointment.”

 

Plenty of us can recall silly stories after our first encounter with laughing gas. But for kids about to encounter it, we asked a few questions. Pediatric Dentist Dr. Sarah Husted of Sea of Smiles Pediatric Dentistry, gave us the scoop on laughing gas and kids.

 

When is laughing gas typically used on kids?

SH: Nitrous oxide is a colorless, odorless gas that, when inhaled, is a safe and effective way to reduce anxiety, produce analgesia, and enhance effective communication between a patient and a health care provider.

 

What are some common reactions to Nitrous oxide?

SH: Nitrous oxide exhibits a superior safety profile when used within recommended concentrations. Common reactions to the use of nitrous oxide are euphoria, analgesia and anxiolysis. This may allow a patient to tolerate unpleasant procedures by reducing anxiety, discomfort, or pain. It also works well to reduce gag reflex.

 

How long do the effects last?

SH: The American Academy of Pediatric Dental Guidelines recommends administration of 100 percent oxygen following the completion of treatment for a minimum of five minutes. Patients can resume normal activity after their appointment and can eat and drink normally. Most children go back to school after their appointment.

 

What should parents do before or after their child’s appointment?

SH: Well-rested, healthy children feel the most comfortable during dental procedures. A cough or runny nose could make it difficult for the child to breathe through the nose while laying back. Friendly language and a parental positive attitude always helps reassure a nervous patient. Our office web site has videos of children in the dental chair in a variety of scenarios that can also help prepare a child visually for an unfamiliar experience.

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