Sedation vs. Laughing Gas: Which Is Right for Your Child?

It’s extremely common for children to feel nervous and fearful about having dental work. As a pediatric dentist, Hisham Merdad, BDS, DSCD, and his team at Easy Dental Care in Gainesville, Virginia, pride themselves on creating a welcoming environment where all children can have a calming and reassuring dental experience.

If your child is particularly anxious about visiting the dentist or has difficulty sitting through dental work, our team offers laughing gas and oral sedation, which are safe, effective treatments that ensure your child stays relaxed while having dental procedures. Learn more about the differences between sedation and laughing gas and how to determine which method is best for your child.

Understanding laughing gas and sedation

Laughing gas and oral sedation are medical solutions that ensure your child feels calm, happy, and relaxed while receiving dental treatment. Our dentists can administer laughing gas or sedation to your child for any dental work, from routine dental cleanings to more involved procedures like root canals and extractions

Both laughing gas and oral sedation allow your child to remain awake and responsive during dental work but stay in a relaxed state. Both procedures are safe, with our dentists carefully monitoring your child throughout their dental work.

Differences between laughing gas and sedation

Your child gets similar results with laughing gas and oral sedation, but there are some key differences. These are some of the main ways these methods diverge.

Medications used

Laughing gas uses nitrous oxide to help your child feel relaxed. Our dentists administer nitrous oxide through a mask placed on your child’s nose, which administers the medication throughout the procedure.

For oral sedation, our dentists can administer different medications depending on your child’s needs, including Ativan® (lorazepam), Xanax® (alprazolam), midazolam, and hydroxyzine. Your child receives the medication orally under the supervision of our dentists.

Levels of sedation

Nitrous oxide, administered in laughing gas, offers your child the lightest level of sedation. Your child might feel a little silly as well as relaxed while it’s administered.

The medications used in oral sedation have a mild to moderate sedative effect, depending on the medication and dosage. Like with laughing gas, your child remains awake. Certain medications prevent your child from remembering the procedure after our dentists complete the work.

Recovery time

Typically, recovery from laughing gas only takes a few minutes. At the end of the procedure, our dentists give your child oxygen through the mask where they’d been getting laughing gas, which quickly removes all the nitrous oxide from their body. Your child should feel back to normal almost immediately and can go back to their regular routine right after the procedure.

Since it offers a slightly higher level of sedation, recovery from oral sedation usually takes the remainder of the day after the procedure. You can expect your child to be sleepy and rest for the rest of the day and be back to normal the following day.

How to choose the right method for your child

At your child’s initial appointment, our dentists consult with you and your child to determine the best relaxation method for your child’s needs. The best procedure for your child can vary based on the dental work being done and your child’s unique profile and desires.

For many children, laughing gas is a strong enough treatment to keep them calm during a procedure. Other children need the stronger levels of sedation provided by oral medication to remain relaxed.

Oral sedation can also be a good solution for children who have trouble sitting still during a dental procedure or for children who experience side effects from laughing gas. Some children tolerate standard dental procedures, like dental cleanings and fillings, with laughing gas but benefit from the slightly higher level of sedation oral medication offers for longer, more complex procedures.

Our team at Easy Dental Care is here to help make your child’s dental experience as enjoyable as possible. Call our office to schedule your child’s visit or request an appointment online today.

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