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nitrous oxide

A Dictionary of Dentistry
Robert IrelandRobert Ireland

nitrous oxide 

Also known as dinitrogen oxide (N2O). A colourless non-inflammable gas used in dentistry for its sedative, anaesthetic, and analgesic properties. It was first produced by Joseph Priestley, an English chemist, in 1772, and first used for a dental extraction by Horace Wells, an American dentist, in 1844. When inhaled alone it can produce euphoric effects, which has led to the common name of laughing gas. It is administered by inhalation in conjunction with oxygen as a method of conscious sedation (relative analgesia) or when mixed with potent anaesthetic vapours such as isoflurane to produce general anaesthesia. Nitrous oxide cylinders have a French blue shoulder; colour coding applies to the shoulder (curved part at the top of the cylinder) only and is harmonized within Europe under the International Standards Organization (ISO 32); in the US colour coding is not regulated by law.