Everyone has a gag reflex, which refers to our body’s natural response in the back of the throat when something touches the glossopharyngeal nerve fibers (or the soft palate behind the nasal cavity and at the back of your mouth). In an effort to prevent choking, your body responds with a “gag” to regurgitate the object. However, some people have a more sensitive gag reflex than others – and this can be problematic when you are in the dental chair!
If you have a sensitive gag reflex, it is not uncommon to fear or avoid the dental office. Your thoughts and anxieties about your gag reflex are important, because the pharyngeal reflex can be triggered physiologically as well as psychologically. So how do you calm your mind and protect your sensitive pharyngeal nerves to keep you from gagging in the dental chair? Fortunately, there are several ways to help!
Tips and Tricks
There are some surprising things you can do while sitting in the dental chair or before your visit that can “desensitize” your reflex, such as gripping your left thumb in a tight fist, positioning your chair more upright, scheduling your appointment in the afternoon or breathing through your nose during your procedure. However, your dentist can help to. Consider choosing a dentist who offers the following.
One of the best ways to combat a sensitive gag reflex is with sedation dentistry. Using a sedative pill or nitrous oxide gas, patients can remain calm and relaxed during their time in the dental chair, without the worry of gagging when a dental instrument is put in their mouth.
In the past, getting a dental restoration (such as a crown) involved taking an impression or mold of your teeth using dental cement. This gooey putty can be quite unpleasant and especially triggering for someone with a sensitive gag reflex. Now, modern dentists use advanced imaging technology to eliminate impression and take measurements of your teeth digitally. It is important to find a dentist who is equipped with these types of minimally-invasive technologies, such as the Omnicam digital scanner at Gilreath Family Dentistry.
Don’t let your fear of gagging keep you from the dentist! Call Gilreath Family Dentistry today to learn more about how we can make your dental visits comfortable and stress-free.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Paul Gilreath IV,