According to an article in Anesthesia Progress, a journal published by the American Dental Society of Anesthesiology, nitrous oxide is used as an inhalation anesthetic. Dentists administer the gas to uneasy patients, minimally or moderately sedating the patients before dental procedures. Ambulatory surgery centers and emergency centers also make use of nitrous oxide.
The Anesthesia Progress article notes that nitrous oxide has a good safety profile. Dentists and health care professionals can either use the gas as a single agent or in combination with other inhalation or intravenous anesthetics. Nitrous oxide does not reliably produce general anesthesia on its own but is effective in combination with the other agents.
AnaesthesiaUK states that nitrous oxide is highly effective as a pain killer when the gas is at a concentration of 20 percent or higher. The gas has depressive effects on the central nervous system, with concentrations of 80 percent or more enough to produce loss of consciousness in most patients. Nitrous oxide is the product of ammonium nitrate heated to 250 degrees Celsius. The ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) breaks down into nitrous oxide (N2O) and two molecules of water (2H20). Precise control of temperature is necessary to prevent the production of contaminants.