What is Nitrous Oxide or Laughing Gas?

A treatment that quickly wears off – drive yourself home!

Female assisitant giving gas mask to patient, what is nitrous oxide or laughing gas

Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, can be given to help calm anxiety or fear about a dental procedure.

Nitrous oxide, which is commonly referred to as laughing gas or dinitrogen oxide, is a chemical compound consisting of two nitrogen atoms bonded to an oxygen atom. It is fat and water soluble, which allows it to pass into the bloodstream and through the blood-brain barrier. It is also a colorless gas with a mildly sweet smell and taste. The compound was discovered by Joseph Priestly, who is also responsible for the discovery of carbon dioxide and carbonated liquids such as soda. Nitrous oxide has many uses in modern life, including acting as a propellant for canned whipped cream, an oxidizing agent for race car fuels and as an analgesic in dentistry. Your dentist might choose to give you laughing gas as a way of quelling your anxiety or fear of having a dental procedure done.

 

Effects of Nitrous Oxide or Laughing Gas

Your dentist will administer laughing gas through a small breathing mask that you will hold over your nose. Once you start breathing in the gas, you will begin to experience its effects within 30 seconds to 3 minutes. The effects of laughing gas include a mild level of sedation and relaxation. If you feel nervous, breathing in the nitrous oxide may help you to experience a sensation of calmness. In a few patients, nausea, numbness or tingling may develop. These effects are most common if the dentist uses a higher concentration of the nitrous oxide. Laughing gas is a safe form of pain relief and is often used on children who are scared of the dentist and need to have dental work done such as fillings. Nitrous oxide is one of few sedatives that wears off quickly, as fast as five minutes after the breathing mask is removed, so you will be able to drive yourself home after your dental procedure.

How Can It Help With Dental Treatment?

Your dentist may provide you with laughing gas in order to reduce your pain or discomfort during a dental procedure. If you have a phobia of going to the dentist, the laughing gas may calm you enough to be able to cooperate for the care that you need. The relaxation that the gas delivers may help you to reduce the anxiety you feel about dental care.

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