Seinfeld was not only one of the best TV shows of all time, it has tons of hilarious dental references. I loved it when Jerry went to the dentist and they gave him nitrous! Relive the moment right here.
What the heck just happened? Doesn’t look good! Okay, let’s break it down.
First off, there’s a few misconceptions that this scene creates. Nitrous oxide isn’t used in dentistry for general anesthesia. Used alone and in a noncontinuous fashion, you can’t “knock someone out” with just nitrous. If you need some literature on that, click here.
In dentistry, we use nitrous oxide as an anxiolytic. Basically, it helps calm people down that are a little anxious. For a lot of patients, it’s exactly what they needed. It doesn’t make you black out or see unicorns or anything like that. Most patients liken it to the buzz you feel after having a drink or two. Once it’s turned off, you generally feel back to normal within about five minutes and can get in your car and drive home with no problem.
With the way the scene is cut, it really seems like Jerry was given general anesthesia and was unconscious while whatever was going on…was going on. That doesn’t happen.
Another thing I’ve wondered is how the dentist worked on Jerry when the mask he put on him covered his mouth! Working on a patient’s teeth typically requires access to their mouth, which the black mask here doesn’t provide. The masks we use are quite small and only cover your nose. For children and smaller patients, the piece that covers the nose is even smaller. We even have scented inserts which make the nitrous smell like cherries, which makes it easier to convince a child to wear.
In summary, I would suggest that Jerry had an atypical experience with nitrous oxide. It is not used for general anesthesia purposes, the mask doesn’t cover your entire face, and patients are aware of their surroundings and can communicate freely with the dentist and staff while receiving nitrous oxide. This scene is a classic, but there’s not a lot of truth in it!
Special thanks to Kyle Clark and his company BioMedGas for providing the nitrous oxide we use in our office. He’s a small business owner just like me and I’m happy to work with him!