Nitrous oxide is commonly used as an anesthetic or sedative by doctors and dentists. The mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen calms the patient, allowing them to relax so the procedure can be performed. Doctors and dentists rely on a wide variety of drugs to calm patients and prepare them for in-office procedures. One of the most commonly used sedative/anesthesia is nitrous oxide which is also called laughing gas. In addition to its numbing effects, it also allows the patient to relax and be less anxious throughout the procedure. One of the reasons the gas is so popular is that it allows the doctor to communicate with the patient during the procedure.


A combination of nitrous oxide and oxygen has been used for many years as an anesthetic or sedative by dentists and other physicians. Also referred to as laughing gas, nitrous oxide is known for one of its most common side effects. People who are given nitrous oxide will often laugh or giggle for several hours until the drug finally wears off. In the United States, Nitrous oxide was approved for use in dental procedures because it is easy to use, safe and effective at reducing anxiety, and has minimal side effects compared to other types of general anesthesia and sedatives.


When a patient is ready for their procedure, the nitrous oxide is administered through a special mask that fits over their nose. As the patient begins to inhale the gas, the drug is quickly picked up by the bloodstream and the patient slowly starts to relax. During the inhalation of the nitrous oxide, patients often remark that it is sweet tasting and makes them feel like they want to laugh. Because the drug enters the bloodstream so quickly, the effects can be felt within a few short minutes. As soon as the person stops receiving the nitrous oxide, the effects slowly begin to wear off. Nitrous oxide is a sedative and the patient should be closely monitored after its use to make sure the drug leaves their system in a timely fashion.


Nitrous oxide gas has both positive and negative side effects. While the most common of its side effects is uncontrollable laughter or giggling, people have reported other side effects as well. They include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Amnesia

Just like many other drugs, people have found a way to use the drug recreationally. Excessive use of nitrous oxide can lead to what is referred to as “nitrous oxide Vitamin B12 deficiency”. Because nitrous oxide affects the brain, it can also deplete the body’s levels of Vitamin B12, resulting in varying degrees of neurological degeneration. Due to the effects of the drug being very short-lived, people may use it repeatedly trying to maintain a high level of euphoria. Constant misuse can lead to nerve degeneration throughout the body. When used appropriately, the side effects of nitrous oxide are minimal. Nitrous oxide is a safe and effective alternative to general anesthesia. It allows patients to be aware of their surroundings during various dental procedures. It offers effective results with few side effects and doesn’t require a lengthy recovery period. Patients who receive the drug can normally go about their business within an hour or so after their procedures. While it’s important to be cautious, the effects of the drug generally only last for a short period of time.


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