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What should I know about nitrous oxide before taking it?

Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is a mild sedative used in a dental office to calm someone who is nervous or fearful of a planned dental procedure. Before dental work is started, the patient breathes into a small mask placed over the nose to inhale a dose of nitrous oxide mixed with oxygen.

The sedative allows the patient to relax, remain awake, and interact with the dentist during the procedure -- and can cause giddiness or a mild euphoria. The dentist may give the patient a few minutes of oxygen after treatment to flush out any remaining nitrous oxide gas from the body.

With nitrous oxide, you will feel sedated but able to respond. In the small dose that is used for calming you during dental procedures, there is not enough to numb the pain. Therefore, it is used along with local anesthetics. Its effects wear off quickly, almost as soon as it is discontinued. Because nitrous oxide gives you a dreamy, euphoric feeling, it is a drug that has been abused. In fact, it is one of the first recreational drugs to be used, in the inhalant class, since its introduction as an anesthetic in the 1850s. It also is known as laughing gas. In small doses, nitrous oxide is generally a very safe drug.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.