Visitor Question

My son was given an overdose of nitrous oxide at the dentist…

Submitted By: Anonymous (USA)

My son went to the dentist for a filling and was given so much nitrous oxide that his eyes were unable to focus and he couldn’t respond to me. I asked the dental assistant why he couldn’t respond. She turned down the nitrous oxide and got the dentist, who immediately turned OFF the nitrous oxide and turned on the oxygen.

She then moved my son to an upright position and gave him water to drink. The assistant was telling him to hold the cup, but he couldn’t even see where the cup was, so I took it from her and fed him the water myself! After a minute or so he was able to focus and respond to me. He said his head hurt and his stomach felt upset.

Please let me know what I should do about this situation. Does this constitute a lawsuit? Thanks for any information you can give.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Anonymous,

The excess administration of nitrous oxide alone doesn’t constitute the basis of a lawsuit. To constitute a lawsuit your son would have to have been injured from the nitrous oxide.

It appears the dentist, via his assistant, wasn’t monitoring the administration of the nitrous oxide properly. Although the failure to monitor the amount of nitrous oxide was improper, there is a very slight possibility your son was injured. The “hazy” or “confused” state albeit unsettling, doesn’t constitute an “injury.”

Nitrous oxide, also known as N20-02 has been around since the 18th century. It is commonly referred to as “laughing gas.” The machines which administer the nitrous are regulated by the manufacturers to contain at least 30% oxygen. As a result, a patient cannot be deprived of the oxygen necessary to maintain brain function.

Although it is doubtful your son was injured, it would be best for you to take him to his physician for a checkup.

Learn more here: Filing a Dental Malpractice Lawsuit

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,


6 thoughts on “My son was given an overdose of nitrous oxide at the dentist…

  1. Frightened and Upset says:

    I am so upset, my 10yr old child experienced horrible hallucinations, his chest felt heavy and he was petrified because he could not respond or wake up. He was talking about it for the rest of the day and until he fell asleep.

    I called the dentist this morning and they tell me, “Oh yeah I see here where they turned it down.” Yes, after he panicked and was hallucinating, he tried to get away from the hallucinations during his procedure.

    This is very dangerous and this needs to be monitored much better than this! He is completely traumatized by his experience. He couldn’t respond when the dentist talked to him and when I looked into his eyes it was zero response, he was not there At All.

  2. Person with a Response says:

    A similar thing happened to me at the dentist about 10 years ago, when I was 8 years old. I couldn’t move or open my eyes.

    I was heavily hallucinating, seeing all kinds of shapes and figures swirling around my head. I was drifting in and out of consciousness and couldn’t remember where I was.

    When the dentist was giving me a novacaine shot I felt it acutely in my gums, but didn’t remember why I would be feeling this and was very scared.

    After he let off the gas, I cried for about an hour straight. I still tear up when I think about it.

  3. Zeept65 says:

    Joseph Shawa DMD I had the same experience years ago. I couldn’t say anything but I knew something was not right! My heart was pounding out of my chest. It felt like my eyes were bulging out of my head and I couldn’t move!!!!

    It was terrifying to the extent I have not been back to the dentist! You say the worst that can happen is nausea, etc. That’s not true! She did admit that she had not turned the oxygen up enough or even on!!!

    It was like I was in the worst horror movie and it’s scary!!! This was about 20 years ago. Maybe it has changed, but I’m still afraid to go back!

  4. Person with a question says:

    Hello — I would like to ask/say this to the original poster. Why do you feel the need to seek out a reason for a lawsuit? You have your son alive and breathing. Is this not enough for you?

    I also passed out/became unresponsive while at the dentist under Nitrous Oxide. I’m thankful I woke up, and didn’t feel my cavities getting filled (and am thankful they numbed my gums as well.) I realize I may not know your whole story. I’m glad your son is okay! Aren’t you? I guess this is all I have to ask/say. 🙂 Thanks.

  5. Joseph Shawa DMD says:

    Actually that 80% was on older machine. Nitrous oxide-oxygen delivery systems are now typically limited to a maximum of 70% nitrous oxide and 30% oxygen delivery; this helps ensure that the patient is receiving at least 9% more oxygen than is found in ambient room air.

  6. Joseph Shawa DMD says:

    The N2O gas does not come out in excess of 80%. The worst that can happen is nausea, vomiting and maybe you pass out. Very much like being intoxicated with blurry vision, lack of coordination, etc and as such some people are more sensitive to it than others.

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