How To Avoid Gagging At The Dentist?

How To Avoid Gagging At The Dentist

There could be multiple reasons for people avoiding trips to the dentist. It could be the fear of costs, pain, or something else, such as bad breath or a sensitive gag reflex. Almost 1 IN 15 people avoid going to the dentist despite of experiencing severe gingivitis or periodontitis because of their sensitive gag reflex, which turns out to be such an embarrassing situation as it starts making the treatment quite challenging.

If you’re one of them and want to save yourself from getting nervous in front of the dentist, scroll down to learn how to avoid gagging at the dentist to make your next visit more comfortable and pleasing!

What does it mean by Gag Reflex?

A gag reflex is an involuntary muscular contraction of the bilateral pharyngeal muscles to resist the foreign particles’ swallowing and prevent choking. It is a natural protective mechanism of the human system to secure airways and prevent potentially harmful things from entering the body.

Some people have an over-sensitive gag reflex that bothers them during brushing or flossing. Similarly, the gag reflex at the dentist is an unpleasant experience as it doesn’t come under natural circumstances that make the treatment difficult and unmanageable.

5 Best Tips To Avoid Gagging At The Dentist

As per a 2014 survey, half of dental patients get a gag reflex at least once while receiving dental treatment. As it is a natural protective human phenomenon, it is impossible to eliminate a gag reflex completely.

But, we are mentioning a quick guide on how to stop gag reflex at the dentist, which could help minimize the gag reflexes at the dental chair.

1. Remember to Breathe Via Nose

Usually, your breathing occurs through the mouth when you keep it open in the dental chair for treatment, which may cause a gag reflex. To avoid it, you should try to breathe through your nose to divert your mind and minimize gagging during dental procedures.

Nose breathing to avoid gag reflex at dentist

NOTE: If you have nasal congestion, remember to take a nasal decongestant before visiting your dentist to ensure a clear airway.

2. Keep Your Throat Numb

Sometimes, dry throat could be a predominant reason for causing over-gag reflexes. Try to numb your soft palate with over-the-counter topical/oral medications or a spray before your dental appointment. It will prevent over-contractions of the throat muscles and ultimately relieve the gag reflex at the dentist.

3. Direct Your Mind Elsewhere

Directing your mind from the ongoing procedure inside your mouth could help minimize gagging. You can watch TV if it is there in the dental office, listen to your favorite music, use a mobile phone, wiggle your toes, squeeze your thumb, or observe the people or things around you. These are the best ways to stay distracted and stop excessive gag reflexes.

Find Distractions at the dental office

4. Spit the Excessive Saliva

Your salivary glands naturally produce excessive saliva whenever they receive strong stimuli such as eating or dental treatment. It is better to spit out the excessive saliva produced due to the ongoing procedure instead of swallowing, as it can strongly trigger your gag reflex at the dentist. 

Let your dentist know to take frequent breaks or use a suction properly to suck out saliva, which is initiating excessive gagging and ruining your treatment.    

Spit the Excessive Saliva during the dental treatment

5. Communicate With Your Dentist

Your anxiety may cause unnecessary gag reflexes at the dentist. So, let your dentist know about all your fears and that you struggle with excessive gagging response to the dental treatment. 

Your dentist will try to make you comfortable by talking or trying remedies such as placing salt at the tip or back of your tongue to help you cope.  

Communicate with your dentist freely


How to not gag during Dental X-rays?

When an object touches your palate or back of the throat, it can trigger a gag reflex during X-rays. You should breathe through your nose instead of your mouth, find some other distractions, or place a mouthwash-dipped cotton roll on the side of the mouth.

You can also put a pinch of salt at the end of your tongue to divert your mind and avoid gag during dental x-rays. An x-ray without bitewing could also help you with it!  

How to suppress your gag reflex? 

The short-term ways to suppress your gag reflex at the dentist include taking topical ointments or oral medications before the visit, breathing from the nose, and frequent spitting of the saliva.

Your dentist can also utilize acupuncture techniques, administration of local anesthesia, or mild sedatives to stop your excessive gag reflexes during the treatment.

What sedation is best for the gag reflex?

Intravenous sedation, such as propofol or midazolam, are more effective in reducing the gag reflex during dental treatment because of their quick onset of action, compared to oral or inhalation sedatives, which take time to produce an effect.  

Can you have no gag reflex?

It is uncommon for people to have no gag reflex at all. But, as per one research study on 140 people, it is found that around 37% of them lack gag reflexes.  

Does salt stop the gag reflex?

Yes! When you place salt at the tip or back of the tongue, it activates the taste buds. It stimulates the chorda tympani nerves, which supply the tongue and stop the gag reflex. 

Enjoy The Most Comfortable Dental Treatment!

You don’t need to worry! You’re not the only one experiencing the sensitive gag reflex at the dentist. Managing a strong gag reflex to make your dental treatment smooth and comfortable is easy.

All you need to do is follow our quick guide above on how to stop gag reflex at the dentist to save yourself from embarrassment at the dental chair.