Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide is a colorless, odorless gas used as a mild sedative in dentistry. It is mixed with oxygen and inhaled through a small mask placed over the nose. The gas induces a state of relaxation and euphoria, often making patients feel light-headed or giggly — hence the nickname "laughing gas." Despite its name, nitrous oxide is primarily used at Woodard Family Dentistry to alleviate anxiety and discomfort rather than to make patients laugh.

How Does Nitrous Oxide Work?

When inhaled, nitrous oxide is absorbed through the lungs and enters the bloodstream. It affects the central nervous system, slowing down the body's response time and creating a sense of calm. The gas also has analgesic properties, meaning it can reduce the sensation of pain. Here's a closer look at how nitrous oxide works in the body:

Interaction With the Central Nervous System

Nitrous oxide interacts with various receptors in the brain, including opioid receptors, which are involved in pain relief, and GABA receptors, which help regulate anxiety and sedation. By influencing these receptors, nitrous oxide can reduce anxiety and pain perception, making dental procedures more comfortable for patients.

Rapid Onset and Recovery

One of the key benefits of nitrous oxide is its rapid onset and recovery time. Patients typically begin to feel the effects within a few minutes of inhalation. Once the gas is turned off, the effects wear off quickly, usually within five to ten minutes. This quick recovery allows patients to drive themselves home after their appointment and resume their normal activities. Call us to learn more.

Benefits of Nitrous Oxide Sedation

Nitrous oxide offers several advantages for both patients and dental professionals. Here are some of the key benefits:

Anxiety Reduction

Dental anxiety is a common issue that prevents many people from seeking necessary dental care. Nitrous oxide helps reduce anxiety and fear, making it easier for patients to undergo dental procedures.

Pain Management

The analgesic properties of nitrous oxide help reduce pain sensation during dental treatments. This makes it an excellent option for procedures that may involve discomfort, such as fillings, extractions, and root canals.

Safe and Controlled Sedation

Nitrous oxide is one of the safest forms of sedation available. It is non-addictive, and its effects can be easily controlled and adjusted throughout the procedure. Dentists in Spokane Valley, WA can quickly increase or decrease the amount of gas administered to ensure the patient's comfort.

Minimal Side Effects

Nitrous oxide is generally well-tolerated with minimal side effects. Most patients experience a pleasant, relaxing sensation without any lingering grogginess or impairment.

Suitable for All Ages

Nitrous oxide is safe for patients of all ages, including children. It can help young patients remain calm and cooperative during dental visits, reducing the stress and trauma often associated with pediatric dental care.

The Nitrous Oxide Sedation Procedure

Before the Procedure

Before administering nitrous oxide, Dr. Christopher S. Woodard will review your medical history and discuss any concerns you may have. It is essential to inform the dental team of any medications you are taking and any medical conditions you have, as these can affect how you respond to sedation.

During the Procedure

  1. Preparation: You will be seated comfortably in the dental chair. A small mask will be placed over your nose, and you will be asked to breathe normally.
  2. Administration: The dentist will start the flow of nitrous oxide mixed with oxygen. You will begin to feel the effects within a few minutes.
  3. Monitoring: Throughout the procedure, your vital signs, including oxygen levels, will be monitored to ensure your safety. The dentist can adjust the level of sedation as needed.
  4. Procedure: Once you are adequately sedated, the dental procedure will begin. You will remain awake and able to communicate, but you will feel relaxed and at ease.

After the Procedure

After the dental procedure is complete, the flow of nitrous oxide will be stopped, and you will be made to breathe pure oxygen for a few minutes. This helps clear any remaining gas from your system and speeds up recovery. Most patients feel back to normal almost immediately and can drive themselves home and resume their usual activities.

Safety of Nitrous Oxide

General Safety

Nitrous oxide is considered one of the safest sedation methods available. It has been used in dentistry for over a century and has a proven track record of safety and efficacy. Its rapid onset and quick recovery make it an excellent choice for a wide range of patients.

Side Effects

While nitrous oxide is generally well-tolerated, some patients may experience mild side effects, such as:

  • Nausea: This is the most common side effect, especially if the patient has eaten a large meal before the procedure.
  • Headache: Some patients may experience a mild headache after the effects of the gas wear off.
  • Drowsiness: Although rare, some patients may feel slightly drowsy after the procedure.

These side effects are typically mild and short-lived. Inform the dental team if you experience any discomfort during or after the procedure so they can address it promptly.


Certain patients may need to take precautions or avoid nitrous oxide altogether. These include:

  • Pregnant women: Although nitrous oxide is generally safe, it is usually avoided during the first trimester of pregnancy. Consult with your dentist and obstetrician to determine the best course of action.
  • Persons With Respiratory Issues: Patients with respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or severe asthma, may not be suitable candidates for nitrous oxide sedation.
  • Persons Taking Certain Medications: Some medications can interact with nitrous oxide. Be sure to inform Dr. Woodard of all medications you are taking.

Nitrous Oxide for Children

At Woodard Family Dentistry, we understand that children often experience anxiety about dental visits. Nitrous oxide is a safe and effective way to help young patients relax and cooperate during their appointments. Here's why nitrous oxide is beneficial for pediatric patients:

Reducing Fear and Anxiety

Children may feel anxious or scared about dental procedures. Nitrous oxide helps them feel calm and at ease, making the experience more pleasant for both the child and the dentist.

Enhancing Cooperation

A relaxed child is more likely to cooperate during dental procedures, allowing the dentist to complete the treatment more efficiently and effectively.

Safe and Gentle

Nitrous oxide is safe for children when administered by a trained professional. The sedation level can be adjusted to ensure the child remains comfortable throughout the procedure.

Quick Recovery

The effects of nitrous oxide wear off quickly, allowing children to return to their regular activities shortly after their appointment.


Nitrous oxide is a valuable tool in modern dentistry, providing a safe and effective way to manage anxiety and discomfort during dental procedures. At Woodard Family Dentistry in Spokane Valley, WA, Dr. Christopher S. Woodard, DMD, and his team are dedicated to ensuring that every patient has a positive and comfortable experience. Whether you or your child are feeling anxious about an upcoming dental visit, nitrous oxide sedation can help make the experience more pleasant and stress-free.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about nitrous oxide sedation, please contact Woodard Family Dentistry. Dr. Woodard and his team are here to help you achieve optimal oral health in a comfortable and welcoming environment. Schedule your appointment today and discover the benefits of sedation dentistry for yourself.

Are you ready to experience top-quality dental care for your entire family? Visit Dr. Christopher S. Woodard, DMD, at Woodard Family Dentistry, conveniently located at 1020 S Pines Rd, Spokane Valley, WA 99206. Don't wait any longer to take care of your oral health. Call us today at (509) 924-8585 to schedule your appointment or to learn more about our comprehensive dental services.

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