Posted in Gagging

Gagging at the dentist? 6 tips to ease your gag reflex

One of the most uncomfortable feelings you can experience is involuntary gagging. Fortunately there are ways to ease your gag reflex with these 6 training techniques and tricks!

If you have a sensitive gag reflex, you might have trouble visiting the dentist. Perhaps every time you go to the dentist and have an X-ray taken to check for decay, you almost lose your lunch on the poor dentist! Fortunately there are ways to ease your gag reflex with these 6 training techniques and tricks as explained below.


What is the gag reflex?


The gag reflex is actually very beneficial to our survival as it helps to prevent us from choking on foreign objects. With some people, this gag reflex is considered to be hyperactive and is set off by something as simple as getting a dental X-ray taken, but up to one-third of healthy people don’t even have it! When the gag reflex is triggered, the muscles of the back of the throat start to contract in order to prevent us from swallowing something which could impair our breathing.


Here are 6 techniques to ease your gag reflex! 

1. Avoid morning appointments. Some people report that they’re more likely to gag earlier in the day. Try to schedule your dental appointment for the late afternoon or evening instead.
2. Breathe through your nose. Taking a nasal decongestant beforehand can help clear the nasal passageways and facilitate breathing, if your nose is congested.


3. Squeeze your thumb. Close your left thumb in your left hand and make a fist. Squeeze tight. A strong gag reflex can be countered and distracted by encircling your left thumb in a fist—and it works quickly. In a 2008 study, researchers examining new ways to prevent gag reflexes from interfering with dental work discovered that participants who gripped their left thumb in a tight fist (made by the fingers of the same hand) were immediately soothed.


Image from Lifehacker 

4. Hum. You might find that it’s difficult to gag and hum at the same time.


5. Raise your legs when slightly off of the chair and hold it, not allowing it to touch the chair. Tightening your abdominal muscles might help stop gagging.

6. Apply pressure to your Hegu Point. Altering the gag reflex via a palm pressure point. The Hegu point is the fleshy part between the thumb and index finger. Researchers found that patients who couldn’t quite fight their gag reflex during dental impressions were calmed and more tolerant. The Hegu point, also known as an “acupuncture cave,” makes patients able to tolerate uncomfortable dental procedures of anywhere from five to 20 minutes. If your skin starts feeling the pain of the pressure, though, your gag reflex will be on the verge of return.


Hegu point: the fleshy part between the thumb and index finger.


“I have some unique tricks that work every time for patients of mine who do have a sensitive gag reflex.” Dr. Rita Trakhtman, Melbourne family dentist, explains. If you have a sensitive gag reflex, communicate this to the dentist so that he or she can employ techniques to ease your gag reflex. “I don’t want my patients to feel bad for their sensitive gag reflex. They often think it’s their fault but it’s not. It’s something that is out of their control and they need to understand that.”



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