8 Tips if You Gag in the Dentist Chair

Tips-Gag-Dentist-ChairDo you hate going to the dentist because you have a gag reflex while x-rays are being taken or impressions are being done?  It can make for a very frustrating dental visit for both you and your dental provider.  Your throat has the tendency to be “on guard” if it feels like there is a potential choking hazard or that your airway can be blocked and you are unable to breathe.  Some people have a worse gag reflex than others and some don’t have it at all.  Gagging can stem from a bad dental experience you had in the past or just a general anxiety.  Don’t feel alone if you suffer from this condition because you are in the company of many others.

We have had our fair share of gaggers in our dental chairs at Szmanda Dental Center and we have found a few tricks that may help you get through your dental visit.

  1. Breathe through your nose. Obviously this will curtail the reflex of gagging if you are concentrating on breathing through your nose and not your mouth.

  2. Be aware of when you feel your gag reflex is at its worst.  Is it in the morning or in the afternoon?  If you take note of this, try to schedule your dental appointment before or after that touchy time.

  3. Numbing Spray.  We do have a spray available that is similar to Chloraseptic in which it numbs the back of the throat for a brief time.  We can also place a little bit of our topical anesthetic on the roof of your mouth which will have a numbing effect and may help to relax your gagging.  Both are a fabulous cherry flavor!  (Sorry for you cherry haters.)

  4. Salt.  Just take a pinch and place it on your tongue.  This trick seems to work well for most of our patients.  It’s not the tastiest thing in the world, but because of this, your mind tends to concentrate on the salt over gagging.  We keep salt at all of our offices so no need to worry about bringing your own.

  5. Lifting your left.  Your brain can also be bamboozled by a simple lift of the leg.  While you are sitting in the chair, bringing a leg up off the chair a few inches and holding it in that position makes you focus on something else.  It also tightens your stomach muscles, which helps with that gagging reflex.

  6. Hum your favorite tune.  One thing that RDH (Registered Dental Hygienist) Magazine suggested that we have not tried yet is to hum.  By simply humming, you are producing airflow, which keeps you breathing.  A telltale sign of a gagging episode that is about to begin is when the patient stops breathing.  So, even if your hygienist or dentist doesn’t suggest it, let them know you are going to be humming a little ditty while they need to do their treatment.  Try something simple like “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”Request an Appointment

  7. Get serious with wrist bands that apply pressure.  There is also a suggestion from RDH to try a product called Sea Bands or Accustraps.  If you know you are a serious gagger and are willing to try anything, you may want to get your hands on these.  Typically they are used for motion sickness or morning sickness.  It is a band you wear around your wrist, which fits snug and applies pressure.  The nerves that carry signals to the brain understand pressure faster than pain or nausea, thusly preventing gagging.  We hope to have these at our offices in the near future.

  8. Practice at home.  If you want to try to break your gagging habit, you can practice by taking something like your toothbrush and touching it to the roof of your mouth (dentalfearcentral.com).  Hold it there for longer increments each time and when you have that spot mastered, start moving it back further and further.  Yes, it sounds terrible and like it’s a pain in the butt, but if it helps, it will make life a little easier.  Just remember that you have to practice and build upon it for it to work, so don’t give up!  You can do it!

Please don’t let your gag reflex deter you from coming to your dental appointment.  We want to keep your dental needs in check before a problem arises.  Szmanda Dental Center would like to provide you with the best possible care and we would like to help you in any way we can.  Please feel free to ask us any dental questions.  That’s what we’re here for.

Information compiled from RDH Magazine, dentalfearcentral.com and Staff at Szmanda Dental Center © Szmanda Dental Center, S.C. 2013