Does a Root Canal Hurt with Laughing Gas? 

Does a Root Canal Hurt with Laughing Gas
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A root canal procedure is a common endodontic treatment that involves removing infected or damaged pulp from a tooth’s root. One of the main concerns with root canal treatments is the discomfort associated with the procedure, which often causes anxiety for patients.

Nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas, has emerged as a promising solution for pain management during root canal procedures. In the following sections, we will explore the use of laughing gas in root canal treatments, its benefits, and its impact on patient comfort.

Root Canal Procedure

A root canal is a dental treatment performed to save a damaged or infected tooth. It involves the removal of the infected nerve and pulp, followed by cleaning and sealing the tooth’s interior. This procedure aims to save the natural tooth and prevent further infection or pain.

During a root canal, the dentist first numbs the area around the tooth using local anesthesia. A dental dam is then placed to isolate the tooth and keep it clean during the procedure. The dentist will make an opening in the tooth’s crown to access the pulp chamber, where the infected pulp is removed. The tooth’s root canals are cleaned and shaped to eliminate bacteria and any debris. 

Once thoroughly cleaned, the canals are filled with a biocompatible material called gutta-percha, which seals the tooth and prevents reinfection. Finally, the tooth is restored with a filling or crown for protection.

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Laughing Gas (Nitrous Oxide) in Dentistry

Laughing gas is often mentioned in dental procedures. But what exactly is it, and how does it affect the patient’s experience, especially during treatments like root canals? Let’s check its role and effectiveness in ensuring patient comfort.

What is Laughing Gas? 

Laughing gas, or nitrous oxide (N2O), is a colorless and odorless gas commonly used in dentistry as a mild sedative agent. It is mixed with oxygen and inhaled through a small mask that fits over the patient’s nose, helping them feel calm and reducing their awareness of the sensations during dental procedures.

Does a Root Canal Hurt with Laughing Gas?

Laughing gas is used in dentistry to reduce anxiety and produce a calming sensation. When administered correctly, nitrous oxide can significantly diminish the pain and discomfort associated with a root canal. While the patient remains conscious and responsive, their sensation of pain is notably reduced, making the procedure more bearable. 

Benefits of Using Laughing Gas

Laughing gas is commonly used during dental procedures to effectively manage pain. Many patients report little to no discomfort when using laughing gas during their treatment, as it helps ease any sensations experienced during the procedure. While pain relief is a significant benefit of laughing gas, there are other notable advantages. Let’s explore them further.

Reduced Awareness

Nitrous oxide induces a state of relaxation, diminishing a patient’s awareness of the sensations of a dental procedure. It helps lessen the patient’s perceived discomfort, making the experience more tolerable.

Anxiety Relief

For many people, dental treatments can cause anxiety. Laughing gas helps alleviate this anxiety by providing a calming effect during the dental procedure, allowing the patient to relax and cooperate better with the treatment.

See also: Toothache or Earache: Identifying and Treating the Pain


Laughing gas is considered a safe and mild sedative agent. When properly administered, it provides effective pain and anxiety management without any major side effects or lingering “hangover” effects like other sedative medications might cause.

Relatively Inexpensive

Compared to other sedative options, such as IV sedation or general anesthesia, laughing gas is a cost-effective choice for managing pain and anxiety during a root canal or other dental procedures. 

Potential Side Effects of Laughing Gas

Nitrous oxide is often used to help patients relax and manage pain. However, there are some potential side effects and considerations to be aware of when using laughing gas.

One of the most common side effects is a feeling of lightheadedness or dizziness. Some patients might experience nausea or vomiting, particularly if they’ve eaten a large meal before the procedure. These effects usually subside shortly after the gas is discontinued. It’s advisable to have a light meal a few hours prior to the dental appointment to minimize this risk. 

A tingling sensation in the arms and legs can also occur, which can progress to a feeling of heaviness or warmth. There’s also the potential for a headache following the procedure, although it’s less common.

Additionally, nitrous oxide may not be suitable for all patients. Pregnant women, individuals with respiratory issues, or those with certain medical conditions should discuss their medical history with their dentist to determine if laughing gas is an appropriate option for them.

Patients should also discuss any medications they are currently taking with their dentist, as some medications may interact with nitrous oxide and alter its effectiveness or cause adverse reactions during the root canal procedure.

Worth Knowing

The study in the Singapore Dental Journal shows that nearly one-fifth of children aged 10 to 14 years surveyed exhibit signs of dental anxiety and fear.

Aftercare Tips

Once you’ve undergone a root canal with the aid of laughing gas, it’s important to take proper care of your dental health for a smooth recovery. Here are some valuable aftercare tips to follow:

Use Cold Compresses

Apply a cold compress to the affected area after the root canal to reduce swelling and alleviate discomfort. It is suggested to apply it for 15 minutes on and then 15 minutes off.

Be Careful What You Eat

Consume soft foods and avoid hard, crunchy, or sticky items. This will prevent any additional pain or damage to the treated tooth. Gradually introduce harder foods back into your diet as your tooth heals.

Keep Your Head Up

Elevate your head when resting to decrease swelling and discomfort. This can be achieved by using extra pillows while sleeping or relaxing.

Over-the-counter Options and Prescription Antibiotics

If your dentist does not prescribe pain medication, they may recommend over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Follow their guidelines on dosage and ask about potential interactions with other medications you are taking. If necessary, your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection.

See also: How Long Can You Leave a Cavity Untreated: Risks and Consequences

Other Types of Pain Prevention

While laughing gas is a popular choice for pain and anxiety management during dental procedures, there are alternative methods that dentists employ to ensure patient comfort.

Local Anesthesia

Local anesthesia is commonly used during root canal treatments. Essentially, it’s a medication used to numb a specific area of the mouth temporarily, ensuring patients don’t feel pain during procedures. The application can be either topical, for more superficial procedures, or injectable, for deeper procedures like extractions or root canals. The primary goal is to provide a pain-free experience, allowing the dentist to work efficiently without causing discomfort.

The advantages of local anesthesia are numerous. Firstly, it targets only the specific area being worked on, leaving the patient alert and conscious. This localized effect ensures that patients can communicate any discomfort or issues to the dentist immediately. Additionally, the effects wear off after a few hours, allowing patients to return to their daily activities without much disruption.

However, local anesthesia does come with a few cons. Some patients might experience soreness or swelling at the injection site. Rarely, individuals might have an allergic reaction to the anesthetic agent, leading to symptoms like itching or rashes. Also, while local anesthesia effectively blocks pain, the patient remains aware of pressure, sounds, and movements, which can be unsettling for some. In these cases, combining local anesthesia with another method, like laughing gas, might be beneficial to provide a more comprehensive comfort experience.

Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry is an approach in dental care aimed at providing a relaxed, anxiety-free experience for patients during procedures. By utilizing sedative agents, sedation dentistry helps patients remain calm, and in certain cases, they might not even recall the specifics of the treatment. The sedative methods vary in intensity, ranging from mild sedation, where patients are awake but relaxed, to deep sedation, where patients are on the edge of consciousness but can still be awakened.

One of the most evident advantages of sedation dentistry is its ability to alleviate anxiety and fear. For many, the mere thought of a dental procedure can be daunting, and sedation offers a way to undergo necessary treatments without undue stress. Additionally, sedation can be particularly useful for longer procedures, making them seem shorter and more tolerable for the patient. It’s also beneficial for individuals who have a low pain threshold, can’t sit still in the dentist’s chair, have sensitive teeth, or need a large amount of dental work completed.

On the other side, sedation dentistry might not be suitable for everyone. Some patients can experience side effects such as nausea or drowsiness. There’s also the need for a patient to have someone accompany them post-procedure, especially after more profound sedation, as they might not be in a condition to drive or make decisions. Lastly, sedation dentistry may come with additional costs, and not all insurance plans cover it.

Frequently Asked Questions

How painful is a root canal with nitrous oxide?

A root canal procedure with nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, is typically less painful than without it. Nitrous oxide helps patients relax and manage pain, leading to many reports of little to no discomfort during the procedure.

What type of anesthesia is typically used in a root canal?

Local anesthesia is generally used in a root canal to numb the area being treated. In addition, sedation options like nitrous oxide may be offered to help patients manage anxiety and pain.

Is laughing gas effective for managing pain during a root canal?

Yes, laughing gas is an effective sedative agent for managing pain and anxiety during a root canal procedure. It safely enables patients to relax, making the treatment more comfortable.

How long does it take to complete a root canal procedure?

A root canal procedure typically takes between 60-90 minutes, depending on the complexity of the case and the patient’s individual needs.

Can you drive after having a root canal with nitrous oxide?

After receiving nitrous oxide during a root canal, patients should wait until the sedative effects have worn off before driving. This usually takes about 15-30 minutes after stopping inhalation but can vary depending on the individual.

What is the cost of using nitrous oxide during a root canal?

The cost of using nitrous oxide during a root canal ranges from $50-100 per visit. Dental insurance does not usually cover this cost, as it is considered an optional sedation method.


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Ruixiang Yee, Nitrous oxide inhalation sedation in dentistry: An overview of its applications and safety profile. Singapore Dental Journal 39(01), May 2019. DOI: 10.1142/S2214607519500019. Available online at:

Mohan, R., Dev Asir, V., Shanmugapriyan, Ebenezr, V., Dakir, A., Balakrishnan, Jacob, J., Nitrousoxide as a conscious sedative in a minor oral surgical procedure. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2015 Apr; 7(Suppl 1): S248–S250. doi: 10.4103/0975-7406.155939. Available online at:

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Iza Wojnarowski

Content contributor

Iza is a dedicated content contributor for Toothific. Having worn braces twice and currently using Invisalign to correct a mild overbite, Iza brings a unique perspective to her writing. She spends her time staying updated on the latest dental trends and treatments, ensuring her readers have the most current information for their dental care needs.

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