We’ve all been there—the dentist or dental hygienist pokes a finger, implement, X-ray or U-tray a little too far inwards, and suddenly, you’re gagging. Not only is this uncomfortable (and embarrassing!) it prevents your dentist from finishing what he or she has to do. Below are some ways to help control your gag reflex at the dentist’s office.
Breathe Through Your Nose
It’s our natural instinct to breathe through our mouths, even when they’re open wide and full of dental tools. You can help control your gag reflex by concentrating 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. Try to resist your impulse to swallow, and let the attending dental hygienist concern themselves with suctioning away your saliva. That’s one of the things they’re there for!
Put Mind Over Matter
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 play a role in controlling it. Practicing meditation and mindfulness techniques may help you control this and other physical reactions (like stress responses).
Agree on a Signal
Discussing your gagging issue with your dentist at the start of your appointment can help him or her accommodate you as much as possible. One helpful tip is to create a signal for when your gag reflex becomes overwhelming. Knowing that you can get a break whenever you need one can help reduce anxiety around the appointment, and thus the impulse to gag.
There are a few other things your dentist can do to help lessen your gag reflex. You can learn about them in Part 2 of our series.
Need a General Dentist in Steele Creek? Stop by Steele Creek Dental!
Our Steele Creek dentist is experienced in working with patients with gag reflex issues, as well as dental phobias, and will be happy to work with you to make your dental appointment easier. To request an appointment, please fill out our contact form here.