For many people, even the thought of a trip to the dentist is enough to increase their anxiety levels.
Fortunately, today there are many techniques available to help make dental visits and procedures more pleasant. One of the simplest of these is the use of “Happy Gas”.
Nitrous Oxide or Happy Gas was first introduced into dentistry over 150 years ago to help relieve anxiety and produce a feeling of dissociation.
Nitrous oxide is an odourless clear gas that is safe for use in both children and adults.
The gas is delivered to the patient via a small mask that fits snugly over the nose. Nitrous oxide is delivered in combination with oxygen through machines that are calibrated to maintain safe levels of oxygen at all times.
The euphoric effects of nitrous oxide wear off within minutes of the nitrous oxide gas being stopped, making it easily reversible and very safe.
Nitrous oxide is an anxiolytic (reduces anxiety), so it is helpful for nervous or fearful patients to overcome an anxious moment.
Patients generally feel relaxed and slightly dissociated (removed) from their surrounds, making it also useful for patients who experience an overdeveloped gag reflex.
The use of nitrous oxide for children’s dentistry is a wonderful help when treating very young or fearful children. Its use often makes a difficult procedure easy for all concerned.
Children become slightly “removed” from the procedure for a very short period of time, often long enough for the dental procedure to finish before the child has realised anything has been done.
Occasionally, a child may feel a bit light headed following a procedure with nitrous oxide, so it is always recommended children are observed closely and refrain from riding bikes or scooters for an hour or so after.
As the effects wear off very quickly, nitrous oxide does not affect an adult’s ability to drive following a dental visit.
For patients who may require greater control of their anxiety, or who may be having longer, more involved procedures, intravenous sedation or general anaesthetic may be recommended.
If you have a dental fear or phobia, it is important to remember you are not alone. Have a discussion with your Dentist about what options are available to help you overcome your fear or make your visit more pleasant.
B.D.S(Hons).(Syd). MDSc (Melb, Grad.Dip.Clin.Dent (Oral Implants), Grad.Dip.Clin.Dent (Conscious Sedation & Pain Control), FRACDS, FPFA, Senior Clinical Associate (Uni of Syd), Dental Surgeon.