Nitrous Oxide and Dental Anxiety in Children

Does your child express feelings of anxiety or fear before visiting the dentist? They may be experiencing dental anxiety. Dental anxiety is a common phenomenon that many people, both young and old, grapple with – it can be brought on by unpleasant past dental experiences, or an inability to cope with unfamiliar dental procedures. Here at Coastal Pediatric Dental & Anesthesia, we offer solutions that can help your child to cope with dental anxiety and receive the care they need.

Dental Anxiety and Phobia

Dental anxiety, or odontophobia, means “fear of the dentist,” and is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). Dental anxiety is a state of nervousness, anxiety, or fear in anticipation of a dental visit.

Studies show that 10% of children have experienced severe dental phobia. A child with a mild fear may be nervous, emotional, or exhibit signs of stress upon arriving at their appointment. Children with a more severe phobia may throw tantrums to avoid dental appointments entirely.

Some symptoms of dental anxiety include, but are not limited to:

  • Restlessness or trouble sleeping before a dental visit
  • Excessive sadness or tearfulness before, during or after a dental visit
  • Feigning sickness in order to avoid a dental visit
  • Flushed cheeks or sweating
  • Irritability
  • Fainting or dizziness

Addressing Dental Anxiety in Children

Communication is the most important step in helping your child to overcome their dental anxiety. By building a trusting relationship with your pediatric dentist and helping your child to express their fears, your dental team will be able to work with your child to address and manage specific concerns.

Our team is dedicated to creating strategies with techniques to help our patients cope with the symptoms of their dental anxiety. One of these techniques, oftentimes, is inhalation nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas,” sedation.

The Role of Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas) is a colorless gas that is commonly used for sedation and pain relief. It is often used by dentists and medical professionals to sedate patients undergoing minor medical procedures.

The use of nitrous oxide gas can help to reduce your child’s pain and anxiety during dental procedures. The gas is used to relax patients, as it invokes a pleasant sensation and reduces sensitivity to pain. Nitrous oxide sedation is considered a “minimal sedation,” which means that the patient will remain fully conscious throughout the procedure and require minimal, if any, monitoring. Under sedation, the patient should be purposefully responsive to verbal or light stimulation, and will remember the events of the procedure. Children often recover quickly from the effects of nitrous oxide gas sedation.

Parents are required to give consent before their child undergoes nitrous oxide gas sedation. With appropriate administration techniques, inhalational nitrous oxide is a safe and effective technique to aid in dental treatment for children suffering from dental anxiety

Dental anxiety is a real concern that affects a significant portion of children and young individuals, and the incorporation of nitrous oxide as a sedation option offers a practical solution.  Through tailored approaches and open communication, our team is dedicated to creating positive experiences for your children, promoting better oral health and well-being in the long run.