Gag Reflex? Some Tips To Help.
Posted on Sep 04, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
For people who have a sensitive gag reflex, going to the dentist can be a trying experience. After all, the suction tube that removes water spray and saliva accumulating in the back of the mouth can trigger it. Once activated, gagging becomes all the more likely.
A gag reflex is a protective reaction that helps prevent foreign bodies from entering the trachea. While gagging is an involuntary and natural response, over thirty percent of otherwise healthy adults have an abnormal gag reflex.
For those who have a severe gag reflex, the mere thoughts of a suction tube or having a dental impression taken can create both dread and fear of embarrassment. After all, gagging triggers a spasm, which causes some people to have dry heaves or even regurgitate. Gagging may also be caused by acid reflux. For some, it can be triggered by certain smells and even anxiety.
Having a severe gag reflex is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s a common occurrence. If you feel this is a concern, feel free to mention this prior to any procedure (including dental cleanings). If you have avoided dental care because of gagging worries, we can discuss ways to help minimize the response and make procedures more comfortable.
The tips offered below may also help you reduce the severity of your gagging reflex as well.
• Breathe through your nose – Breathing through the nose can alter your focus from the potential to gag. Some patients find it beneficial to count their breaths to distract their minds. Breathing through the nose can also help your ability to relax. Concentrate on taking deep breaths in and out as you relax the jaw muscles.
• Go to your ‘happy place’ – When the fear of gagging is replaced by pleasant thoughts, patients are less likely to gag or the severity of the reflex is reduced. Think about things and people who make you happy. Your grandchildren? Your best friend? Relive a terrific vacation in your mind. Relaxing on a beach? Hiking a beautiful mountain? Think about foods that bring back memories. Peach cobbler with ice cream melting on top?
• Occupy your mind with tasks – A great distraction is to think of to-do’s in our head. For example, make a grocery list or the birthdays you need to remember for the next few months. The goal is to take your focus away from what’s going on in your mouth.
• Ask about sedation options – Having a severe gagging reflex may be helped greatly with an added sedative. In our Asheville periodontal office, we offer oral and IV sedation. Oral sedation is in pill form and has a quick recovery. I.V. sedation (referred to often as twilight sleep), provides a deeper level of sedation.
• Know you can take a break – Our patients are not prisoners in a chair, at any point – We realize some procedures can be long and are happy to provide a break to sit up, or move your mouth around, or get up and walk around. An opportunity to move your head and neck muscles around may revive you and provide just the relaxation you need.
• Don’t think of drooling as awkward – Saliva is a natural flow of moisture in the mouth. Drool is simply saliva that gets past the lips. As dental professionals, drool is not something that bothers us If drooling helps to relax your gag reflex, then go for it. If you do, we’ll help keep you comfy with suction and dabbing with tissues as needed.
Remember, gagging is rather common occurrence in a dental office. If gagging has caused you to avoid or delay having regular dental care or lengthy procedures, consider scheduling a consultation appointment in our beautiful Asheville periodontal dental office.
Call 828-274-9440 to schedule.