Laughing Gas: What is So Funny about Nitrous Oxide?

nurse in blue scrubs holding mask for nitrous oxide (laughing gas) sedation

With the rising popularity of sedation dentistry, you have probably heard of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas. This colorless, odorless gas temporarily sedates patients while they undergo dental treatment. But what is so funny about this gas?

Nitrous Oxide makes you giggle

One of the main responses to nitrous oxide is a laughing effect, hence the name. Oftentimes, as the warm, euphoric feeling spreads throughout the body, patients will giggle. The administration of laughing gas temporarily relaxes people, dismissing anxiety and fears that precede dental procedures. When these fears are gone and you are unaware of stress, you are more likely to laugh at yourself and your environment. Easy to see why laughing gas is also referred to as “happy gas” and “sweet air”, right?

hand drawn illustration of vintage nitrous oxide equipment

Humphry Davy

Laughing gas was first utilized for sedation by Humphry Davy in 1772. While experimenting with nitrous oxide, he self-administered the gas to decrease the pain of a toothache. Humphry Davy described his experience with nitrous oxide as a sedative by writing,“The pain always diminished after the first four or five inspirations; the thrilling came on as usual, and uneasiness was for a few minutes swallowed up in pleasure.” As in 1772, we use laughing gas today to “thrill” patients into a relaxed state. Unlike the 1700’s, modern use of nitrous oxide is in conjunction with oxygen. Use of pure nitrous oxide is safe for only short periods of time before a lack of oxygen will lead to unconsciousness. Thus, present-day laughing gas includes up to 70% oxygen.


two sets of hands performing a dental procedure while administering nitrous oxide

Warm Euphoria

After an initial feeling of lightheadedness, laughing gas will disperse a tingling sensation throughout your body. This sensation is followed by a warm feeling of euphoria– think puppies and rainbows. You will be pain-free, unaffected by the unpleasant feelings that may be occurring inside your mouth. Laughing gas is fast-acting; it reaches your brain in 20 seconds, and you will experience its effects within 3 minutes. Unlike with other sedation options, administrators of laughing gas are able to change the level of sedation as frequently as they choose, and changes are felt immediately. Additionally, exposure to laughing gas doesn’t leave you with a “hangover effect”. 3-5 minutes after the gas supply is turned off patients will return to their normal state of being.


Laughing gas is an effective way to decrease the discomfort that often accompanies dental procedures. At Greenspoint Dental we offer nitrous oxide, as well as 2 alternative sedation options. We try to make dentistry as comfortable as possible for our patients. If you have any questions about laughing gas or other sedation dentistry practices, don’t hesitate to ask!