The History of Laughing Gas

Laughing gas—or nitrous oxide—is a sedative gas that mixes with oxygen to help patients relax during dental procedures. In the few short centuries since its discovery, laughing gas has become one of the most popular methods of sedation 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 effect it had on users. For many years, laughing gas 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 laughing gas to his patients during oral procedures. Though laughing gas didn’t gain national recognition for another 15 years, Wells is considered to be the “Discoverer of Anesthesia.”

Today, laughing gas is available in most dental practices that offer sedation dentistry. It’s fast-acting and the effects wear off soon after the mask is removed, which makes it a popular choice for those who experience dental anxiety.

If visiting the dentist makes you nervous to the point that you avoid checkups and treatments, contact Smiles Dental at 541.673.3552. Our dentists in Roseburg, Oregon, may recommend laughing gas to help you feel comfortable in our care.