Happy Gas (Nitrous Oxide)

We have all heard of Happy Gas, but what is it and why is it used in a dental environment? Well Happy Gas is actually a gas called Nitrous Oxide. In a dental environment, nitrous oxide can be inhaled, in combination with Oxygen, to help calm a patient down.

Nitrous Oxide (N2O) is simply a gas that has no colour, smell and doesn’t irritate. It is used commonly for sedation, but is also known as relative analgesia, RA, nitrous, happy gas or laughing gas. Although nitrous can be inhaled in a 100% concentration for short periods, it is now only used in a mixture with oxygen. Generally the standard mix is 70% Oxygen and 30% Nitrous Oxide.

Depending on the concentration and length of administration of Nitrous, four levels of sedation can be experienced (after an initial feeling of light-headedness):

A tingling sensation, especially in the arms, fingers and legs, or a feeling of vibration (“parasthesia”), quickly followed by Warm sensations, and A feeling of well-being, euphoria and/or floating. During heavier sedation, hearing may dissolve into a constant, electronic-like throbbing. At a deeper level of sedation, sleepiness and difficulty to keep one’s eyes open or speak can occur. Should nausea set in, it can mean you are oversedated.

As people experience things in different ways, should you ever experience any unpleasant symptoms, then let us know and we can adjust the percentage of N2O.

In order to administer the Nitrous, we use a mask that sits over the patients nose. The mask is also connected to a vacuum that sucks away any wasted or extra gas. All in all, nitrous is a good, safe way to administer sedation. Nitrous:

  • Works rapidly
  • Can be altered from moment to moment so that the depth of sedation can be increased and decreased.
  • Has no hang over effect – the gas is eliminates from the body within 3-5 minutes after the gas supply is stopped.
  • Has a variable duration of action, unlike other techniques such as pills or intravenous drugs.
  • For certain procedures – it may be possible to use nitrous instead of local anaesthesia.
  • Is very safe and has few side effects.
  • Can be used to eliminate or at least minimise gagging

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