The correct chemical formula for nitrous oxide should have the ‘n’ (for nitrogen) and the ‘o’ (for oxygen) as capital letters i.e. N and O. Since there are 2 nitrogen atoms in each molecule of n2o the correct chemical formula for nitrous oxide is N2O. In this brief article I shall refer to nitrous oxide as N2O . Nitrous oxide is one of the oxides of nitrogen and is also called dinitrogen oxide or laughing gas. It is a natural part of the atmosphere and is found here at approximately 5 parts per million. Nitrous oxide supports combustion at room temperature but at this temperature is not itself inflammable. Nitrous oxide got the name laughing gas because of its actions in people, when it is used at sedative, non-anaesthetic concentrations. At higher concentration N2O it has weak anaesthetic properties. Interestingly, N2O was the very first gas used as an anaesthetic. This happened in the mid-19th Century. Horace Wells a dentist was the first medical person to use Nitrous oxide as an anaesthetic. He acted as the guinea pig and one of his wisdom teeth was removed by a fellow dentist, while he breathed the gas. Thus it was he who gave mankind the gift of anaesthesia, without which few modern surgical operations would be possible. Sadly he died relatively unknown and with little thanks. Others who came later usurped his rights of discovery. Even today few realise that it was a dentist who discovered anaesthesia. As mentioned earlier, another important use of N2O is as a sedative and anxiolytic. Here N2O is used in childbirth and mainly dentistry for its sedative, anxiolytic and pain-relieving properties and low non-anaesthetic concentrations. N2O has also been used successfully for treating withdrawal stated from all the well-known addictive drugs.
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