Does Laughing Gas Really Make You Laugh?

A girl smiling and laughing

It’s no laughing matter. The laughing gas, nitrous oxide, has been used for over 150 years as an anesthetic in surgery and other medical procedures when more appropriate options were unavailable. Today, it is often used by dentists to help highly anxious patients relax while major dental procedures are being performed. Laughing gas is safe, however, like any other drug, it can also carry serious risks if abused. 

If you want to know which dentists near you use nitrous oxide for dental emergencies, ask the referral specialists from for immediate answers. Meanwhile, here are a few things you need to learn about laughing gas and its potential dangers! 

What Is The Laughing Gas?

The laughing gas has been used as a dental anesthetic since the mid-1800s. It is an odorless, colorless, and sweet-smelling inorganic gas that effectively manages anxiety and pain during dental treatment. 

As opposed to its name, laughing gas does not necessarily throw you into a fit of laughter. Rather, you might feel tingly, dizzy, or a slight heaviness in your legs or arms. Ultimately, you should feel relaxed during the procedure. You might even giggle once or twice!

Because laughing gas works fast as a sedative and doesn’t really take long for the side effects to wear off, it is often recommended for patients who undergo dental procedures, wound examination, and minor surgeries.  


How Does The Laughing Gas Work?

Nitrous oxide is called the laughing gas because it induces feelings of euphoria when inhaled. It blocks pain signals from being sent to the brain by interfering with neurotransmission in the spinal cord. All of this happens within seconds! 

The breathing process slows down while blood pressure drops. Muscles begin to relax and people become less responsive to external stimuli. Higher dosages can cause a person to stop breathing entirely if they don’t have supplemental oxygen on hand. Of course, when administered by trained medical professionals, someone will be present with additional air and equipment in case things go wrong.


Does Laughing Gas Really Make You Laugh?

Contrary to popular notions, laughing gas does not literally make patients laugh. Instead, it triggers the release of dopamine molecules which plays a crucial function in the reward system of your body. Due to the increased stimulation of the reward pathway of your brain, you may experience a rapid rush of euphoria. In this state, you may feel extremely happy and may want to laugh. 

Is Laughing Gas Safe?

Laughing gas is deemed safe and effective and can be used from filling cavities to tooth extractions. It is highly recommended for patients who have dental anxiety. 

While laughing gas remains an option in dentistry today, its use has declined considerably in recent decades with the introduction of laughing gas alternatives such as laughing tablets and liquid local anesthetics. It does have someplace still,  however, it is not advised for dental procedures where there is long-term airway obstruction. Moreover, with these alternatives, there’s also less risk of accidental overdose or side effects rendering it a preferred choice in some cases (e.g., patients with asthma).


Why Do Dentists Use Laughing Gas?

The laughing gas can be especially useful for patients who have anxiety about going to the dentist or feel discomfort when needles are used to numb their gums. 

Dentists use laughing gas because it works quickly in sedating patients, and effects typically wear off fast without any long-term issues. The Journal of Dental Anesthesia and Pain Medicine has established that there is little risk for exposure to negative side effects when the dosage is properly administered. Generally, side effects range from headaches, dizziness, shivering, nausea, excessive sweating, vomiting, to fatigue. 

Major problems, however, can occur if the nitrous level is abnormally high or if the amount changes drastically while being inhaled. Possible symptoms of overdose include irritation in the nose, wheezing, rapid heart rate, choking, and hallucinations.

Brain damage is also a possibility if a patient has inhaled large doses without sufficient oxygen. If no immediate action is taken, an overdose may result in a coma or even death. This is why dentists will often only use laughing gas for shorter procedures. 



Laughing gas doesn’t necessarily make you laugh. It can make you giggle because of so much relaxation when you get the shot. Then again, this drug can be dangerous and life-threatening if overused or misused which makes it far from being a laughing matter. 

Nitrous oxide is also not recommended for everyone. Thus, it is advised that you share with your dentist your medical history before a procedure. Based on your current health, your dentist can determine which method of sedation would be best for you.

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