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17 Things that May Surprise You about Nitrous Oxide


There is a lot more to nitrous oxide than just its use as a sedative. It may be unusual to say this about a gas, but there are a lot of interesting facts about it…

  1. Bacteria in oceans and soil emit nitrous oxide.
  2. The discovery that nitrous oxide helps to relieve pain happened in 1800, but it wasn’t really used for that purpose until 1844, and wasn’t widely used by dentists until the 1860s.
  3. It is nicknamed “laughing gas” because of so-called “euphoric” effects of inhaling it. If you aren’t laughing up a storm after inhaling nitrous oxide, you may be reacting to it by just acting sleepy.
  4. Most people usually experience five stages of sedation: light-headedness, a tingling sensation in the arms and legs, a warm feeling, a feeling of euphoria, and then a sleepy feeling.
  5. It is used in racing to make the engine more powerful, and also as an oxidizer in rocket motors.
  6. “Laughing gas parties” with nitrous oxide were all the rage for the British upper class in the late 1700s.
  7. Nitrous oxide is used in the food industry as well. It helps to give aerosol whipped cream volume. It is used in cooking spray as a propellant. It is used in bags of potato chips so the bags are puffy, which prevents your chips from being crushed.
  8. Nitrous oxide can be used by women in childbirth, and is being used more and more often in hospitals and birthing centers. It doesn’t get rid of the pain, but it does take the edge off a bit. Many women like it because it can be used at any time during labor, there are no serious side effects, it doesn’t require an IV or catheter, and they can still move around during labor.
  9. Nitrous oxide is considered very safe for your child to use while at the dentist. It will help them to relax. Once it is turned off it is flushed quickly from the body, and he or she can stay awake while the dentist is filling their cavity. However, younger children may not want to wear the mask for nitrous oxide, and it may make some children may feel nauseous. Consult a family dentist before using Nitrous oxide on your child.
  10. Nitrous oxide that is used at the dentist is actually usually a mixture of 70% oxygen and 30% nitrous oxide. For medical uses, the mixture is often 50/50.
  11. The exact mechanism of how nitrous oxide works isn’t really understood. It seems to act on the brain in many different ways at once.
  12. Many dentists offer scented nitrous oxide to their patients, which may include strawberry, vanilla, mint, or other scents to choose from.
  13. Nitrous oxide works rapidly, and can relax a patient within 3 minutes. It is eliminated from the body about as quickly.
  14. Patients who are afraid of needles may find that nitrous oxide relaxes them enough to face that needle poke.
  15. If you are having nitrous oxide you may not want to have a big meal before you head to the dentist. A big meal combined with nitrous oxide may result in nausea. However, your stomach shouldn’t be empty either—a small meal hours before your appointment is best.
  16. Nitrous oxide is cheaper than IV sedation.
  17. No one is allergic to nitrous oxide. It is safe for those who have diabetes, epilepsy, liver, heart, or cerebrovascular disease, although if you have a respiratory disease you should discuss that with your dentist.

There are quite a few interesting facts about nitrous oxide. However, if you are headed off to the dentist and wondering if nitrous is right for you, all you need to know is that nitrous oxide is safe and effective to use. Contact our Arlington Dental Offices to learn more about sedation dentistry.


About Mark C. Marchbanks, D.D.S.

Dr. Mark Marchbanks has practiced dentistry in Arlington Texas since 1983. He enjoys caring for patients young and old. You can find Dr. Marchbanks on Twitter or on Linkedin. If it's been more than 6 months since your last teeth cleaning, give us a call today to schedule your check-up.

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