The History of Nitrous Oxide and Modern Dentistry

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If you’ve experience dental anxiety, you may be familiar with the calming effects of nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas). Over the last few centuries, nitrous oxide has had a prominent impact on the development of modern dentistry.

Nitrous oxide was discovered in 1793 by English scientist and clergyman Joseph Priestley, the first known person to isolate and prepare important gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and ammonia. Following Priestley’s discovery, Humphry Davey of the Pneumatic Institute in Bristol, England, coined the term “laughing gas” in reference to the giddy effect it had on users. For many years, nitrous oxide was used only for recreational purposes.

In the early 1840s, Connecticut dentist Dr. Horace Wells noticed that people who received minor injuries while under the influence of laughing gas didn’t notice the pain until the effects of the gas wore off. Dr. Wells began administering nitrous oxide to his patients during sensitive procedures such as tooth extractions. Though nitrous oxide didn’t gain national recognition as an effective dental sedative for another 15 years, Wells is considered to be the “Discoverer of Anesthesia.”

Today, nitrous oxide is available at many dental practices as a form of sedation dentistry. Because nitrous oxide is fast-acting and wears off soon after the mask is removed, it has become a popular choice for patients who experience dental anxiety.

Rimrock Dental of Redmond recommends nitrous oxide in Redmond, Oregon, for patients who avoid oral treatment because of anxiety. If you’re anxious about your next dental checkup, we encourage you to contact Dr. Jade Cherrington at 541-699-4200 and find out if nitrous oxide could help you feel calmer during the procedure.