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Nitrous oxide shortage continues after 2016 explosion

August 14, 2017

By Michelle Manchir

Silver Spring, Md. — The nitrous oxide shortage that was expected to end in March is ongoing, and it's unclear when production will return to normal.

The Food and Drug Administration first issued a shortage notice for nitrous oxide in January, following an explosion in August 2016 at a production facility in Florida operated by Nitrous Oxide Corp., an Airgas company.

In March, the FDA said it anticipated "a return to full capacity throughout the Airgas supply chain" by the end of that month. However, in July, the FDA updated information on its website about the nitrous oxide shortage, reporting that "a full capacity throughout the Airgas supply chain is anticipated to return to normal by the end of 3Q 2017."

Still, when the ADA News asked an Airgas spokeswoman to confirm that timeline, she could not. Instead, she said the company anticipates "a rebalanced supply chain in the near term."

The spokeswoman, Sarah Boxler, said the Florida plant where the explosion occurred has not reopened and is not operational, but that the company has added production shifts at other North American facilities to increase production capacity.

She added that, since the incident in Florida, "Our industry has prioritized our medical use customers. We are currently working to serve the needs of all of our nitrous oxide customers."

Access to nitrous oxide has become a concern for some dentists as a result of the supply disruption, with several members calling the ADA and state dental associations with comments and questions.

The ADA and the FDA encourage dental offices to report any shortages by emailing the agency at drugshortages@fda.hhs.gov.

Dentists can look for shortage notices, safety alerts and product recalls on the ADA Safety Alerts website by visiting ADA.org/SafetyAlerts.

For more information on all drug shortages or supply issues, visit the FDA's website.