Inhalation sedation for dental procedures

Inhalation sedation is a light form of sedation. It is a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen breathed through a nosepiece. This helps the child to feel relaxed and accept treatment. Inhalation sedation is also known as ‘happy air’. It is not general anaesthesia. This page from Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) explains about inhalation sedation and what to expect when your child has a dental procedure that requires it.

During inhalation sedation your child can feel:

  • Relaxed
  • Floating
  • Slightly drowsy but not asleep
  • Slightly warm
  • Tingling in the feet or hands
Your child will be awake and conscious throughout the procedure and will be able to talk.

How quickly does it work?

  • Inhalation sedation takes a few minutes to become effective and also a few minutes to recover from at the end of the procedure.
  • Inhalation sedation is a suitable form of sedation for most children.

Before the appointment

  • Please contact Dental Department reception if your child develops a cold (inhalation sedation does not work if a child has a cold or a blocked nose).
  • A written consent form is required to be signed by the person with parental responsibility before treatment under inhalation sedation.

On the day of the appointment

  • Loose clothing should be worn
  • Fasting is NOT required. Your child should have a light meal approximately an hour or two before the appointment
  • Greasy/oily food should not be eaten as it can make the child feel nauseous during treatment
  • The patient must be accompanied by a responsible adult who has parental responsibility
  • Inform the dentist if your child’s health or medication has changed

After the treatment

After inhalation sedation, the child should avoid active sports, swimming, bicycling, dancing, skating, crossing the road on their own for the rest of the day. Please ask the dentist if your child can go to school after the treatment.

Compiled by:
The Dental and Maxillo-Facial department in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group
Last review date:
June 2020