Laughing Gas vs Sedation: What is the Difference?

Dental sedation is a useful tool that helps us alleviate pain and anxiety during dental treatment. It’s very common for people feel distressed and anxious by the thought of going to the dentist. 

We may suggest that you try dental sedation to see if it helps the experience be much more tolerable. That being said, there are multiple types of dental sedation, so how do you know which is right for you? Read on to learn more about the different types of sedatives.

What Is Laughing Gas?

Laughing gas (nitrous oxide) is a very mild and safe sedative that is suitable for most patients. Since the risk of this sedative is very low, it’s the preferred method of sedation for most. It is a gas that is inhaled through the nose after we place a nasal mask on you. 

The onset of the effects is very quick so within just a few minutes, you’ll notice the effects of the sedative. You don’t have to fast for a very long time beforehand, either. We ask that you eat a light meal about 2 hours before your appointment and that you avoid eating during this 2-hour window.

What Does It Feel Like?

The effects of laughing gas include relaxation, a feeling of heaviness, euphoria, or giddiness. You will feel very calm or happy and may even start laughing, but not everyone has this response. 

Many people report a tingly feeling in their limbs and they may feel sleepy but remain conscious during the appointment. If you do fall asleep, we can easily wake you up. This is a conscious form of sedation so you will be awake and aware of your surroundings.

How Long Does Laughing Gas Last?

Laughing gas only lasts for about 5 minutes after we remove the mask. After about 5 minutes, your body would have completely metabolized it and no further remnants of nitrous oxide would be in your body. This means you can return to your normal activities. If you drove to your appointment then you will be able to drive home too.

What Is Deep Sedation?

When you get into the realm of sleep dentistry, we’re talking about general anesthesia, which is a more intense form of sedation that puts you to sleep, in a state of unconsciousness. This is usually reserved for more complex procedures like oral surgery which can be traumatic. It can be administered through a mask, a tube, or an IV. Once this sedative is administered, it kicks in instantly, within 30 seconds.

What Is It Like?

You will be completely unconscious during the procedure so you are essentially asleep with no idea of what is going on. You will not feel any pain, cannot respond to anyone, move, or have any sense of your surroundings. 

This is helpful for people who have extreme phobias or have experienced trauma in a dental setting. This way, they do not have to experience the procedure and they will wake up feeling as if no time has passed and might be confused.

How Long Does It Last?

General anesthesia is much different than nitrous oxide in that it stays in your system for up to 24 hours. We will move you to a recovery room once the procedure is over and will need to monitor you for a while until you’re cleared to leave.

You  will need to be monitored for the rest of the day and need assistance getting up the stairs. You will also need someone to drive you home after the appointment. You will likely feel very sleepy and should rest for the rest of the day. You should not engage in any strenuous activity, as your reflexes will be affected for the next 24 hours.

Is Sedation Right for You?

If you deal with restlessness, low pain tolerance, tooth sensitivity, a sensitive gag reflex, or anxiety, you can benefit from dental sedation. Contact us at ONE ENDO to schedule a consultation at our Westchester, Norwalk, or Greenwich offices and we can help you determine which one is right for you. 

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