What is it? And what does it do?
Nitrous oxide (N2O) is simply a gas which you can breathe in. It has no color, no smell, and doesn’t irritate. It was discovered in 1772. Simply put, it kills pain – and it induces a pleasurable feeling. After 5 minutes or so of breathing in the gas (4 or 5 slow puffs), you should feel a euphoric feeling spread throughout your body. Some have said it reminds them of a ‘happy drunk’ feeling. Some people find that there are auditory or visual effects as well. You may feel a bit light headed and some will get ‘the giggles’-hence the name laughing gas!
What are the advantages of nitrous oxide?
- Proven effective & safe—used globally for decades, popular in labor and delivery suites, and now in the Aesthetics arena
- Patient administered—empowers you to respond to your own level of pain & anxiety
- Quick Onset—it reaches the brain within 20 seconds, and relaxation and pain-killing properties develop after 2 or 3 minutes and last for about 15 minutes.
- Short duration of effect—clears from the body within minutes- There’s no “hangover” effect – the gas is eliminated from your body within 15 minutes after the gas supply is stopped. You can safely drive home and don’t need an escort.
- Can be used for the duration of any procedure with no risk of “overdose”
- Inhalation sedation is very safe. It has very few side effects and the gasses used have no ill effects on the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain.
What to expect; What does it feel like?
Although nitrous oxide (N2O) on its own can safely be used for short periods of time, it’s safer to mix it with oxygen (O2) for longer periods of use. Many dental offices utilize N2O-O2 with a mix of about 70% oxygen to 30% nitrous oxide. At Reflections Skin and Laser Center we use a lower percentage – 50%/50%- which you administer yourself during the course of your treatment, according to your needs and discomfort level. The levels of sedation which can be experienced (after an initial feeling of light-headedness) are:
- a tingling sensation, especially in the arms and legs, or a feeling of vibration quickly followed by
- warm sensations, and
- a feeling of well-being, euphoria and/or floating.
The actual mechanism of action of N2O is still unknown- in fact there are quite a few different mechanisms at work! However, it’s been observed that N2O depresses almost all forms of sensation – especially hearing, touch and pain, and that it seems to disinhibit some emotional centers in the brain. The ability to concentrate or perform intelligent acts is only minimally affected, as is memory.
How is Nitrous Oxide administered?
- The equipment used for delivering the N2O-O2 mix is quite simple. It consists of a supply of compressed gases and an apparatus which delivers the gases to the client. The desired N2O-O2 mix- in the case of Pro-Nox a 50%/50% mix- is fed through a tube -All you have to do is inhale and exhale as instructed from a plastic, single use mouthpiece with disposable tubing attached. If you are a “nose breather” it may take some practice to inhale through the mouthpiece.
- No worries, you can hold your nose with your fingers or a small clip can be applied to the nose to prevent air entry there.
Regardless of how many puffs you take, the Nitrous will leave your system rapidly and you will feel back to normal by the time you leave the treatment room.
Are there any contraindications?
There aren’t any major contraindications to relative analgesia, except for M.S., emphysema and some exotic chest problems. It hasn’t been proven to be safe during the first trimester of pregnancy, so you can’t use it then. You can’t be allergic to N2O. It’s also safe to use if you suffer from epilepsy, liver disease, heart disease, diabetes, or cerebrovascular disease. It is also used quite successfully in many people with respiratory disease – but it depends on the exact nature of the disease.