Dentist gas, LAUGHING GAS, or NITROUS OXIDE, is a form of conscious sedation, which can help reduce DENTAL ANXIETY. This is opposed to an unconscious sedation, where you are put to sleep.  It was originally invented as an inhalation anesthetic, so it does contribute to pain control as well.

The good parts of the gas is that because it is inhaled, it acts very quickly, but also leaves the body very quickly. You also are conscious throughout the procedure, so you do not need to worry about losing control.  Because it leaves your body within minutes, you are also able to drive home, and will not impair you for the remainder of the day.

It does not knock you out, but can make you feel more relaxed. It often makes your body tingle, and can give your body feel lighter.

There are conditions in which nitrous oxide should not be used. They include but are not limited to,

  • Pregnant patients
  • Patients with respiratory disorders


The apparatus consists of a nosepiece that is placed over the nose of the patient.  Some offices have the nitrous plumbed through the walls, some have a mobile unit that can be taken from one room to another.  There are tubes going attached to both ends of the nosepiece, which will be secured over your nose/head.

One potential problem is the apparatus. When work is to be done on the upper front teeth, the nosepiece which is used to administer the nitrous oxide can sometimes get in the way of where the dentist is working. On the other hand, that is the dentist's problem, not yours.


If you take an oral anti-anxiety medication (such as valium, ativan, or other sedative), let you dentist know if s/he is planning to use dentist gas.

The combination of the two medications is a higher level of sedation than your dentist may be licensed for, because of the possibility of the medications piggy backing on each other. dental laughing gas, dentist nitrous oxide, dental gas.


Unfortunately, like any other drug, one of the drawbacks of nitrous oxide is it's abuse potential.  Not necessarily for the patient, but dentists and office staff have gotten in trouble for abusing it.  It is safe in limited quantities, but should not be used leisurely.

It is relatively safe, as long as the provider supplies enough oxygen in combination with the nitrous oxide, so there is a limit to the amount that can be administered.  Ambient air has about 20% oxygen, but generally it is advised to run at least 50% oxygen with the gas. 

Read here for detailed potential risks.

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