It is common for patients to have some level of anxiety about seeing the dentist.  Patients can be comforted knowing our office has solutions to help put the them at ease.  

Nitrous oxide (laughing gas)

Nitrous Oxide has been the primary means of sedation in dentistry for many years.  It is commonly referred to as laughing gas, though it rarely makes someone laugh. It is an odorless gas that you breathe through the nose and is very safe.  The patient receives 50-70% oxygen with no less than 30% nitrous oxide.

The patient is able to breathe on their own and remain in control of all bodily functions.  Typically, the patient is awake and can have a normal conversation.

The patient may experience very mild amnesia and may fall asleep, not remembering parts of the appointment.


  • The depth of sedation can be altered at any time to increase or decrease sedation.
  • Inhalation sedation is safe with no side effects on your heart and lungs, etc.
  • Inhalation sedation is very effective in minimizing gagging.
  • It works rapidly as it reaches the brain within 20 seconds. In as little as 2-3 minutes its relaxation properties develop.
  • After five minutes of pure oxygen at the end of the appointment, there is no residual effect, and the patient can go on with their day unassisted.

You should not utilize nitrous oxide if you have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Though there are no other major contraindications to using nitrous oxide, you may not want to use it if you have emphysema, M.S., a cold or other difficulties with breathing through the nose.

You may want to ask your dentist for a “5 minute trial” to see how you feel with this type of sedation method before proceeding.

Oral Anti-anxiety medication

In cases of moderate or severe anxiety, Dr. O’Malley can prescribe one or two tablets to be taken orally shortly before your dental appointment.  This method is appreciated by patients due to ease of use and because of it’s effectiveness.  The medicine is a short-acting benzodiazepine that reduces activity in the fear centers of the brain. It has a calming effect and often makes patients feel sleepy.  Patients often report not remembering parts of the appointment afterwards, which is another benefit.


  • Treatment is completed when you are in a more relaxed mood.
  • You will have less difficulty sitting through a lengthy procedure.
  • Multiple treatments and full mouth restorations can occur during the same visit.
  • Less discomfort after treatment.
  • No IV needed

As with every medication, there are benefits and risks.  Caution must be taken when using this medication. Benzodiazepines are also Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants, meaning there can be a decline in blood pressure and breathing. It is important to note that they should not be mixed with other CNS depressants such as alcohol. Exceeding the recommended dose could decrease breathing to dangerously low levels.

Please note that you shouldn’t travel on your own after you have taken any of these drugs.  Make sure you have an escort, even if you traveled by bus or foot!  It’s easy to become disoriented.

Some patients may not be candidates for this medicine based on their prior and current state of health.  Be sure to discuss your health history and also any medicine you are taking with Dr. O’Malley.