Tips for the Gagging Dental Patient

I haven’t been to the dentist in a while because I’m scared, particularly of the x-rays. They make me gag because I have a way-too-sensitive gag reflex. I just can’t keep the bitewings in my mouth. I also have to get braces and I’ve heard bad things about getting the molds/impressions done for them and I’m scared. Do you guys have any tips on avoiding gagging in these situations? I’ve heard about the throat-numbing spray, does that actually work?

Thanks, Megan

Dear Megan,

You are not the only person with a high gag reflex. Many patients have difficulty with dental x-rays as well as dental impressions. We highly recommend that the first thing you do is tell your dental care providers that you have a sensitive gag reflex. Just by you discussing this matter with them and letting them know of your concerns should help ease some of the anxiety that you may have. Below we will list some tips that you can try to help control your gag reflex.

Tips for controlling a gag reflex:

  • Sprinkle 1 to 2 grams of salt on your tongue right before dental x-rays are taken. This works almost every time.
  • Have the dental professional taking the x-rays or impression apply a numbing spray in your mouth which will temporarily numb your mouth and throat.
  • Ask your dentist to use a fast acting impression material that will set up very quickly compared to most that are used.
  • A rubber dam can be used during an impression to prevent the impression material from feeling like its hitting the back of your throat.
  • Lift your leg up out of the chair and keep it in the air until the x-rays or dental impression are over. This will keep you concentrating on your leg and not thinking about gagging.
  • Stand up for your dental impression instead of sitting down in the chair. This can make it a little difficult for the one taking the impression however does work too.
  • Use a nasal decongestant before your dental treatment and breathe through your nose during the procedures.
  • Bring an I-Pod and listen to your own music to help you relax

These tips are the most common ones used by patients that have a strong gag reflex. The salt and the numbing spray seem to have the best success however the others have worked as well. The best advice we can give you is to address your gagging problem with your dentist, once you talk with them and they understand your concerns you will feel more at ease.

This post is sponsored by Phoenix dentist Dr. Arthur Chal.

Related links: Impressions are required for cosmetic dentistry treatments like tooth whitening and porcelain veneers.

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