Laughing Gas Vs Oral Sedation: What's the Difference?

Dental sedation is used for a variety of reasons, most commonly to put a patient experiencing anxiety at ease. Dental anxiety and dental phobias are very common and they can prevent patients from seeking much-needed dental treatment or taking preventative measures such as cleanings to prevent tooth decay.

Why Choose Dental Sedation?

There are many other benefits to dental sedation, such as suppressing the gag reflex, helping patients who experience restlessness, low pain tolerance, or tooth sensitivity. Sedation may be used in pediatric dentistry if a child is extremely nervous or uncooperative during dental treatments due to being very young.

Laughing Gas

Laughing gas, also known as nitrous oxide, is a combination of gases administered through a nasal mask that is inhaled by the patient. The combination of gases is nitrous oxide and oxygen, so they will not have any trouble breathing. 

The patient will feel very relaxed, in a dream-like state, and is likely to make the patient feel giddy or euphoric. This is why it is nicknamed “laughing gas”. It is the mildest and safest sedative available, which makes it the sedative of choice in pediatric dentistry. 

The preparation and aftercare required for laughing gas are very minimal. The patient is only advised to fast for the 2 hours leading up to the administration of laughing gas. 

After the dental treatment is over, they will quickly recover within minutes and may only experience nausea, which can be relieved by drinking water. However, it may not suffice for patients experiencing severe anxiety. 

Pros and Cons of Laughing Gas

Advantages of laughing gas include:

  • Safest sedative
  • Fast onset of relaxation
  • Low risk of complications
  • Easy to administer
  • Makes patients feel relaxed & euphoric
  • Wears off within 5 minutes of oxygen flow
  • Can return to normal once the treatment is over
  • Cheaper than oral conscious sedation
  • You can drive yourself home

Disadvantages of laughing gas include:

  • Can cause feelings of claustrophobia
  • Not viable for patients who can’t breathe out of their nose
  • Mild sedative not effective for severe anxiety
  • Can cause nausea, dizziness, or vomiting
  • Can give patients the giggles & hallucinations
  • Can deplete vitamin B12 storage and cause mental confusion
  • Cannot be given for longer periods of time

Oral Sedation

Oral sedation is administered through medication. The patient will take a pill before the start of their appointment. It is a stronger sedative than laughing gas and the patient will not be able to drive to or from their appointment, requiring them to arrange for rides.

Oral sedation is a conscious method of sedation, so the patient is awake and can respond to questions. However, the patient will feel incredibly sleepy and isn’t fully aware of their surroundings. They are not very likely to remember the dental treatment once the sedative has worn off.

Oral sedation can vary from mild to moderate, depending on the dosage of medication. For more severe anxiety and other treatment complications, a moderate dose is preferable to make the dental treatment easier for both parties. If given moderate oral sedation, the patient could fall asleep during the treatment but would be able to wake up easily.

Pros and Cons of Oral Sedation

The advantages of oral conscious sedation are:

  • Enhances anesthetic effectiveness
  • More effective at relieving anxiety
  • More control over the dosage
  • Can sleep during the procedure but easily be awoken
  • Won’t have to remember the appointment
  • Allows the dentist to get more work done in fewer appointments
  • Very safe
  • You can listen and respond to the dentist’s instructions

The disadvantages of oral conscious sedation are the following:

  • If you are taking other medications, this can interfere with the anti-anxiety medication
  • You cannot drive to or from your appointment
  • Requires time to kick in
  • Not easy to change the level of sedation
  • More expensive than laughing gas

Experience Anxiety At the Dentist? Try Precision Dental’s Sedation Options

If you suffer from dental anxiety or phobia, our excellent team at Precision Dental is here to put you at ease. Our Bowling Green team offers both nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and oral conscious sedation depending on your preferences and level of unease.

If you would like oral conscious sedation, keep in mind that you will need to inform the dentist before your appointment. Contact us online today or give us a call at 270-715-9214 to discuss your sedative options or schedule an appointment with Dr. Bryan Packard.

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