How Long Does Laughing Gas Last – What to Know

How Long Does Laughing Gas Last1
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Dental sedation is an option for patients with anxiety or difficulty undergoing oral surgery and other dental procedures. While generally safe and effective, many people often wonder how long it takes to wear off.

How Is Laughing Gas Used?

Laughing gas is an anesthetic used by medical professionals to help you remain calm before a procedure. It’s not meant to put you fully to sleep.

Before your procedure, your doctor will ask you for your consent to use nitrous oxide. After that, a plastic mask will be placed over your mouth and nose. The laughing gas flows through the mask and you breathe it in.

Children may be given laughing gas through a nasal hood, which covers their nose but not their mouth. Sometimes, a familiar scent will be added in to help them get used to having the mask or nasal hood on.

You’ll start to feel the effects of the laughing gas within a few minutes. As laughing gas doesn’t put you fully to sleep, you’ll still be able to hear what’s going on around you. You may still be able to respond to questions that your doctor asks you and follow the instructions that they give you throughout the procedure.

Forms Of Dental Sedation

Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is one of the most popular forms of dental sedation. Nitrous oxide usually takes a few minutes to take effect and lasts as long as the gas is still flowing. Once someone stops the gas flow, it takes a few minutes for the patient to recover to a somewhat normal state. Afterward, the patient may feel a bit disoriented but will regain his/her normal state faster than with other forms of dental sedation.

Oral Sedation

When it comes to dental sedation in the form of pills, patients need to take the medication the night before the scheduled procedure. You can also take the sedation several hours before the scheduled dentist appointment. When the oral sedation begins to take effect, patients feel disoriented and drowsy. This simplifies things for the oral surgeon. Essentially, oral sedation will suppress the gag reflex, suppress pain responses, reduce anxiety, and more.

However, these dental sedation methods usually last anywhere from two to eight hours after the procedure. The type of drug you take will determine how long it will take the sedation to wear off. Oral sedation may cause you to experience an amnesic effect. In fact, you may not remember ever visiting the oral surgeon’s office.

How Long Does Laughing Gas Last2

How Long Does Dental Sedation Last?

Dental sedation is ideal for patients who have to go through lengthy procedures requiring them to sit still for several hours at a time. It is also usually safe for kids since they are often unable to sit still through long-lasting procedures. However, many patients often worry about the safety of dental sedation.

You should avoid eating and drinking anything for at least six hours before sedation and during sedation. It is important for your stomach to be empty to prevent regurgitated food from causing an obstruction in the airways while you are under.

After the procedure, you will remain in the cabinet for a while as you recover. Usually, dental sedation will start wearing off after half an hour or so. You may still feel lightheaded and drowsy for a few hours afterward. Therefore, you should have someone to keep you company and transport you home safely.

Is Dental Sedation Always Necessary?

In some cases, dental sedation may not even be necessary, if the situation doesn’t call for it. Furthermore, if a dentist tells you that a sedative is required, you should first consult with your primary care physician to ensure that it is safe for you; some sedatives may interact with prescription medications you’re on, so be sure to inform your dentist of all medications you’re presently taking and for what reason before you undergo any procedure.

Risks Of Using Laughing Gas

As mentioned, laughing gas is safe to use when it is given to you by a doctor and you are under medical care. However, there are several risks of using nitrous oxide when it is not given to you by a doctor.

When used as a recreational drug, nitrous oxide is usually dispensed into another object, like a bag or balloon, or directly into the mouth. Because of this, nitrous oxide is classified as an inhalant. Nitrous oxide can be found in the silver chargers that are used to make whipped cream. Recreational users inhale laughing gas for the euphoric effect.

Along with negative side effects, there are several risks of using laughing gas as a recreational drug, including:

  • Lowering of blood pressure
  • Fainting
  • Heart attack
  • Hypoxia, or the fatal loss of oxygen
  • B12 deficiency and anemia
  • Nerve damage due to the tingling sensation

Prolonged recreational use of nitrous oxide has several negative long-term effects, like:

  • Memory loss
  • Incontinence
  • Depression
  • Psychological dependence
  • Psychosis
  • Weak immune system
  • Numbness in hands and feet
  • Limb spasms
  • Ringing in your ears

Another of the risks of using laughing gas is that it affects your coordination, like many other recreational drugs. This can be dangerous if nitrous oxide is used in a place where you could fall and hurt yourself or cause danger to others. It is also very dangerous to try to drive or operate machinery while under the effects of laughing gas.


Two hours prior to use of the gas, patients should not eat. Nitrous oxide has few side effects. However, high doses can cause nausea in some patients. About 10% of patients do not achieve a nitrous oxide sedation benefit. Patients who are claustrophobic or have blocked nasal passages cannot effectively use nitrous oxide.

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