How to Prevent a Gag Reflex at the Dentist: Gagging

Touching a person's tongue who has a sensitive gag reflex with a cotton-tipped applicator is not appreciated.

Touching a person's tongue who has a sensitive gag reflex with a cotton-tipped applicator is not appreciated.

                A gag reflex is a natural thing your body may due to protect your airway..  Some people have a strong gag reflex, some people…not so much.  There are ways to help you at your next dental visit. 

                Some of the methods we use include:

1.)     Breathe through your nose.  If you are stuffy, take a decongestant before your dental reservation.  We offer a new bottle of nasal saline for your appointment.  We would also suggest a nasal strip, we have them at Life Smiles for you.  Breathing through your nose reroutes the air so you do not feel the inhalation go across whatever is in your mouth to cause potential gagging.   No gag reflex!

2.)    Salt!   Yes, salt.  Taking a small amount of salt at the tip of the tongue immediately prior to an potentially gag activating activity, usually stops gagging.  By doing so, it stimulates taste sensors.

3. Numbing mouthwash is custom mixed for our practice by a specialized pharmacy.  Most offices don't office this for sensitive patients.  A thirty second swish and a few minutes later, all your soft tissues are numb including the palate and tongue.

4.)    The newest and least invasive of all of the above techniques is using a laser at the beginning of the appointment.  A low level laser, not hot or burnig, is held on specific pots on your wrist for 20-40 seconds.  I was skeptical at first, but after reading the literature and seeing it work, I am now recommending that prior to taking medications.  We offer this for our patients.

There are many other tricks and distractions.  One major thing to keep in mind for an extreme gagger is to avoid early in the day dental reservations.  One is more likely to gag in mornings compared to later afternoons and evenings.  When you wake up, you haven’t talked much or eaten.  Your muscles are tighter and tastes may be more sensitive.  An appointment later in the day provides you with the luxury of having conversations, singing in the car, eating a couple meals and snacks all in which have loosened up the muscles allowing you a better experience with dental treatment and radiographs. 

At Life Smiles, we do have special technology to take x-rays outside your mouth, thereby eliminating any chance for gagging.  They are called extra-oral bite-wings.  The only thing that touches your mouth is a plastic bar the rests between your upper and lower lip.  The technology turns around your head, not touching you, and is very easy.  Comfortable and painless dentistry is our goal at our practice.