The History of Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide is a popular form of sedation dentistry that helps patients feel calm and comfortable during dental treatment. In the centuries since its discovery, nitrous oxide has been cultivated into a safe, effective solution to dental anxiety.

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, nitrous oxide was used only for recreational purposes.

In the 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 oral procedures. Though nitrous oxide didn’t gain national recognition for another 15 years, Wells is considered to be the “Discoverer of Anesthesia.”

Today, nitrous oxide 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.

Our team at Smiles Dental is proud to provide nitrous oxide in Spokane, Washington. If you often experience dental anxiety during checkups and treatments, we invite you to contact our office at 509.850.3050 and ask Dr. Michelle Metcalf if nitrous oxide is an option for you.