When you hear the word x-ray in the dental office, what is your first thought? For a majority of people, the first thought is “Oh great, those always make me gag”. Since intra-oral radiographs have been around since about 1875, we as dental professionals like to think we have mastered controlling the gag reflex. Here’s how:
Breathe, breathe, breathe! Gagging can be due to a psychological factor, physiological factor, or both. Gagging can also be an expression of panic; relating to a feeling that a person is unable to breathe or swallow. The first trick to try to overcome this moment of panic is to remember to breathe. Take long, deep breaths through your nose. Giving yourself something to concentrate on, even if it is something as simple as breathing, can take your mind off what is potentially triggering your reflex.
Talk to your dental provider. Let them know your potential triggers and fears. For some, even a slight touch on the cheek can cause a reflex. If that is the case, now your dental provider is aware and can do their best to avoid touching your cheek. We may not have a large area to work with, but we want you to be comfortable and trust that we are doing everything in our power to make your visit a positive one. Communication is key.
We also have a few tricks up our sleeves when it comes to preventing the gag reflex as well. We have an in-office mouth rinse that is specially formulated to anesthetize your entire mouth for 45 minutes to an hour. It is a quick 30 second swish that many of our patients have found very helpful not only to prevent the gag reflex, but help make other dental procedures more comfortable as well. A little bit of salt on the tongue right before a procedure (especially before x-rays) is also very helpful. A large number of our patients who have tried the salt on the tongue while taking x-rays have done great and ask to use salt again.
Life Smiles, a dentist located in Plymouth, MN, has special x-rays we can take OUTSIDE YOUR MOUTH, instead of putting a sensor in your mouth, if gagging is an issue. This is a hi-tech advantage we have over many other offices. They are called extra-oral bitewings.
Feel like you have a nasty cough you can’t shake? A throat spray with numbing action, such as Vicks Ultra Chloraseptic Throat Spray (an over-the-counter product) can also relieve the gag reflex. Two or three sprays right before dental treatment lasts about an hour. Both Breathe Right products, the snore relief spray and Breathe Right strips are also great adjuncts to utilize during dental treatment. Wearing a Breathe Right strip while in the dental office may seem a little unconventional, but if it works, why knock it?
Don’t know which gag prevention tool to try at your next dental visit? As stated before, talk to your dental provider. They have all the insight you need to make your dental appointment as easy and gag-free as possible. It never hurts to ask.