Oral Surgery Anesthesia: What is Nitrous Oxide?

We’ve all heard about “laughing gas.” But what is nitrous oxide, really – and how does it work? When is it a good choice for oral surgery anesthesia?

Nitrous oxide is colorless, smells sweet, and goes down easy – without irritation. It’s a breathable gas. And it has beneficial effects for pain relief during surgery.

That’s why nitrous oxide has been the main sedative in the dental profession for generations. It’s safe. Before and during surgery, you are given a mix of 50-70% oxygen and no less than 30% nitrous oxide through a breathing apparatus. You can still breathe under your own power and keep control of your bodily functions.

One commonly noted effect of nitrous oxide is mild amnesia. Until the effects wear off, you may wake without remembering much of what has taken place.

 Nitrous Oxide Advantages


  • The amount of sedation can be changed at any point during surgery to increase or decrease pain relief and tranquility
  • No “hangover” – you experience no negative effects after the nitrous oxide wears off
  • It’s safe and causes no side effects to your heart and lungs
  • Inhalation sedation minimizes gagging very effectively
  • It works quickly, reaching relaxation and pain-killing levels within 2-3 minutes

Reasons to Avoid Nitrous Oxide

There are few reasons to avoid nitrous oxide, though you may choose to avoid it if you suffer from emphysema, rare chest problems, muscular sclerosis, or have a cold, allergies, or other breathing difficulties.

If you’re concerned, please feel free to ask your oral surgeon for a quick, 5-minute test to gauge your response to the nitrous oxide during your office visit.