The Health Risks of Laughing Gas

Laughing gas or nitrous oxide is a commonly used, short-acting anesthetic. What are the side effects of laughing gas?

Laughing gas may not be a laughing matter after all. Laughing gas, known to dentists worldwide as nitrous oxide, is widely used as a short acting anesthetic for dental procedures. A little over a third of dentists in this country use nitrous oxide as part of conscious sedation, a way of relaxing the patient without putting them completely under. Although in the majority of patients, the side effects of laugh gas are mild including lightheadedness, dizziness, a sensation of warmth and a sense of euphoria, some users aren’t so fortunate and may experience more serious repercussions. What are the side effects of laughing gas?

Side Effects of Laughing Gas: Is It Safe?

Use of nitrous oxide or laughing gas has characteristically been thought to be a safe form of anesthesia since the patient remains awake, but is completely relaxed with a sense of well being and occasionally euphoria. Despite its reputation for safety, A British study conducted in 2007 on over 2,000 people found that laughing gas could increase the risk of heart attacks after surgery. Not only this, but the study showed that the risk of surgical wound infection and pneumonia was up to thirty percent higher in those who received nitrous oxide compared to an oxygen and nitrogen mixture.

Laughing Gas: How Does It Work?

How does nitrous oxide or laughing gas work? The exact mechanism by which laughing gas exerts its effects isn’t completely known, but it seems to affect portions of the brain that control feelings and emotions, causing relaxation without significantly affecting the ability to think or remember. It’s usually administered through a tube hooked to a canula and is mixed with oxygen. When laughing gas is administered, the effects can be seen in as little as two minutes. The other reason it’s such as popular form of anesthesia is that the effects are very short-lived, unlike most other forms of anesthesia. The patient generally requires no significant recovery time after the procedure and is able to drive home in most cases.

Side Effects of Laughing Gas: Is It Still a Good Option?

Do the side effects of laughing gas outweigh the benefits? Most forms of anesthesia have some risk of side effects and laughing gas is no exception, but more studies are needed to determine what effect it has on the heart and why it could increase the risk of a postoperative heart attack. Although it’s probably one of the safer forms of anesthesia, it shouldn’t be used for simple dental procedures that don’t require sedation. It’s not uncommon to have nausea or vomiting after laughing gas and some people can experience more pronounced psychological effects. The bottom line? Don’t use it if you can avoid it.

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  1. You are so right, I hope to stay away from them all, but it seems as we get older………..we are left with no choice when it comes to surgury or dental work. Oh Well

  2. a really interesting article. i always wondered what is it about this anesthesia that makes one laugh. everything is very clearly explained. i can’t help but recall a scene from one of the pink panther movies in which herbert lom is given laughing gas by insector cluesoe, in disguise as a dentist, and lom tells sellers, laughing under the effects of the gas, “you pulled out the wrong tooth. hah ha ha. i’m going to kill you. hah ha ha.”
    brilliant research.

  3. Dental anxiety keeps too many people from having checkups because something could be wrong and then they have more problems because they didn’t go to the dentist or periodontist.

    Most dental professionals understand dental anxiety. Pain is the prevailing reason why people fear the dentist.

    No dental professional can touch me without first giving me nitrous oxide. It makes the event easier for the patient and dental professional. Sadly, it doesn’t work on everyone.

    Keep smiling.

    Saundra Goodman

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