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Decreasing Your Gag Reflex During Dental Appointments


Posted on 4/20/2017 by Brandon Cooley
A woman receiving nitrous oxide.
If you have a bad gag reflex, going to the dentist can be a difficult, and therefore stressful, ordeal. Everything from getting X-rays to having restoration work done, even a simple cleaning and exam, present a problem, not just for you, but your dentist as well. And a bad experience at the dentist's office is often enough to make you not want to go back, which is a problem in and of itself.

Skipping dental visits greatly increases your chances of tooth decay, gum disease and other issues that could have otherwise been prevented through a routine exam. Fortunately, there are things you, and your dentist, can do to decrease your gag reflex and make your dental experience much more bearable.

Distract Yourself
When you're sitting in the dentist's chair, there's usually not much you can focus on except for what is happening to you. By doing so, you are much more likely to gag. Instead, try to find ways to distract yourself. Bring a stress ball to squeeze. Run through your shopping list. Plan that long overdue vacation. Bring a friend or family member who can keep you occupied with a story. If your mind is on things other than what is happening, you are going to be much less likely to gag.

Numbing Spray
Your gag reflex is triggered when something touches your soft palate. While your dentist rarely ever touches this area of your mouth, the combination of lying on your back and your dentist passing tools near the soft palate is often enough to make you gag. Ask your dentist about using a numbing spray or topical gel on the soft palate, as well as around it. These agents usually last 15-30 minutes, and can be reapplied if necessary, giving your dentist the time needed to complete a cleaning or exam.

Ask About Sedation

If nothing else works, ask your dentist about sedation. Nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas, is the lightest form of sedation, and can be quite effective. You breathe in the gas and it causes you to relax enough to significantly reduce, or even stop, your gag reflex. And, once your procedure is done and the gas turned off, the effects quickly wear off.

If a bad gag reflex is keeping you from getting the dental work that you need done, contact our office about ways to help reduce it.

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