Kids Health Info

Sedation (Nitrous Oxide) for Dental Procedures

  • Nitrous oxide is a gas, commonly known as 'happy gas' or 'laughing gas'. Giving nitrous oxide is a way to help reduce a child's pain and anxiety during dental treatment.Your child will breathe the gas through a small nosepiece that sits on their nose. You need to give consent for your child to be given nitrous oxide. Children usually recover quickly from the effects of the gas.

    Permission to give sedation

    As the parent or carer you must give us consent for sedation and consent for the dental procedure. You need to understand the reasons for sedation and the following risks:

    • We will carefully check your child's breathing and if required, we will give your child oxygen through an oxygen mask.
    • Some children may vomit. Very rarely, they may breathe the vomit into their lungs, which may require some specific treatment.


    Your child can have a light meal such as jelly, soup or toast and a drink two hours before the procedure.

    What to expect

    • Nitrous oxide sedation is done in the dental chair. Your child will breathe the sedation gas through a small nosepiece that sits on their nose. It does not cover their mouth.
    • The nitrous oxide makes children feel sleepy and relaxed.
    • They will still be aware of what is happening around them but will feel more relaxed, dreamy and floaty, warm, have tingling in their hands and feet and may be a little forgetful. They may not be able to remember the procedure.
    • While giving the nitrous oxide, staff will monitor your child's level of sedation to ensure that they can still cooperate and hold their mouth open.
    • Dental treatment will be done in the usual manner. Local anaesthesia may also be used and can be given when the child is sedated.

    Care after the procedure and at home

    Your child will recover from the effects of the nitrous oxide very quickly. Some children may feel a little sick or nauseated. If they feel sick or vomit, give your child clear liquids such as diluted fruit juice, icy poles, jelly, clear soup etc. Children must have a responsible adult at the appointment with them, who can take them home and supervise all playing and bathing for the next eight hours after getting home.

    Key points to remember

    • It is common for children to have sedation for procedures.
    • You need to give consent before your child has sedation.
    • Children usually recover quickly from the effects of nitrous oxide gas sedation.

    When to call the doctor

    Contact an RCH dentist if your child:

    • Vomits more than twice in the first hour after treatment.
    • If you have any questions after recovery.

    Call the RCH switchboard on T: 03 9345 5522: 

    • Between 8.30am and 5.00pm (office hours) ask for the Department of Dentistry.
    • After hours, ask for the dental registrar-on call (this is the after-hours dental doctor).

    The name of the dentist who performed the sedation is:





    Developed by the RCH Dept of Dentistry, Dept Anaesthesia and Procedural Pain Team. First published June 2006. Updated December 2010.

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This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.