Nitrous oxide sedation is the lightest form of dental sedation, but it can provide an adequate level of anesthesia and relaxation for most people and for the majority of dental procedures. It involves breathing a mixture of nitrous oxide gas in combination with oxygen. This can help anxious patients to become more relaxed and co-operative during treatment without experiencing pain.
Inhalation analgesia, as it is also called, is a method of conscious sedation because the patient remains awake and conscious throughout the procedure. It should not be confused with sleep dentistry which refers to unconscious sedation (general anesthesia).
Nitrous oxide provides minimal sedation which is defined as a drug induced controlled state of minimally depressed consciousness. The patient retains the ability to breath without external help, maintain their protective reflexes and the ability to respond normally to physical stimulation and to verbal commands.
This method of sedation is good for light procedures or routine visits to the dentist. It is best for people with low to moderate levels of anxiety.