For some people, the worst parts of a dentist appointment are those that trigger the gag reflex. Whether it’s biting into a silicone-filled U-tray, taking a dental X-ray, or just having a regular dental cleaning, a sensitive gag reflex can make a dentist appointment into a nightmare. Here’s what to do if you suffer from this common condition.
What Causes a Gag Reflex?
A gag reflex is essentially your body’s attempt to keep you from choking when a foreign object comes too close to your air passages. It’s a physiological defense mechanism that is strong in some people and weak in others. Although it’s an involuntary physical reaction, though, psychology can also play a role in the gag reflex. If you are experiencing anxiety around your dental appointment, the stress can worsen an already-existing gagging problem or even create one.
What You Can Do to Lessen Your Gag Reflex
Whether your gag reflex is triggered by physiological or psychological factors, here are some steps you can take to reduce your chance of gagging during a dental appointment.
Breathe Through Your Nose
When our mouths are open wide, it’s our instinct to breathe through them. However, you can lessen your gag reflex by forcing yourself to concentrate on breathing deeply through your nose. If your nose is stuffy due to a cold or allergies, over-the-counter decongestants and nasal strips can help.
Try Not to Swallow Your Saliva
As embarrassing as it is to drool onto your lab cloth, trying to swallow your saliva can trigger your gagging. Your dentist would much rather clean up your drool than cause you to gag during your treatment, so drool away.
Talk to Your Dentist
Dentists are used to working with patients with gagging issues, and discussing the issue openly with your dentist can help him or her accommodate you as much as possible. One good idea is to create a signal for when your gag reflex becomes overwhelming. Knowing that you can get a break when you need one can help significantly reduce gag-inducing anxiety. Your dentist can also help you in a variety of other ways, which you can read about here.
Book a Dentist Appointment at Lowcountry Dental Arts
If you’re worried about an upcoming dental treatment, or would like to schedule an appointment, call Lowcountry Dental Arts. We have served hundreds of happy customers in the Charleston and James Island areas and can’t wait to help you achieve your perfect smile. To receive our general dentistry, family dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, and emergency dentistry services, request an appointment here.