Conscious Sedation: What To Expect With Nitrous Oxide

Posted on: 25 February 2015

So, you've just scheduled some serious dental surgery and your periodontist told you he's going to use nitrous oxide to make the procedure as pain-free as possible. Sounds good, but he lets it drop that you'll be awake during the surgery! If that scares you, don't let it: nitrous oxide is a safe and effective conscious anesthesia.

The Procedure

Nitrous oxide is a very simple anesthesia to deliver. It doesn't require injections or any other kind of invasive procedure. Basically, your anesthetist will fit a small plastic mask over your face. Then, he'll set a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen that you will inhale through the mask.

Some anesthetists will fit you with a pair of headphones during the procedure to help further calm your mind. Once the surgery is over, he'll remove the mask and introduce oxygen back into your system.

After a few moments, your head should start to clear and any lingering nitrous oxide effects should start to disappear.

Feelings Created

Once nitrous oxide starts kicking in, you should start feeling a wide variety of feelings in your body and your mind. Nitrous oxide feelings include:

  • Tingling sensations
  • A sense of "vibration"
  • A warm flush through the body
  • Euphoria
  • Feelings of floating

These feelings help calm your mind and your anxiety during a stressful procedure. They also help kill the pain you might otherwise feel. During the surgery, you should still be able to see, think, hear and speak relatively clearly.

However, if you are having a hard time keeping your eyes open, can barely speak or feel a dull "electronic throbbing" in your ears, you are over-sedated. Let the dentist know so they can adjust your flow.

Side Effects

Like any anesthesia, nitrous oxide has several side effects. Most of its side effects are uncommon and relatively minor. These minor side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Hazy memory
  • Uncontrollable laughter
  • Ineffectiveness
  • Hallucinations
  • Strange dreams
  • Headache
  • Hypothermia

While misuse of nitrous oxide can result in more serious problems, these side effects are very rare. In fact, most of them occur when people misuse the substance to get high, a problem that continues to plague the industry around the world.

Remember, nitrous oxide has been around for decades and is still considered one of the safest and most effective anesthetics on the market. If you still have concerns, talk to your periodontist. They can help explain the procedure in greater detail and help you fully understand every aspect.