How to prevent a gag reflex with false teeth

Written by sumei fitzgerald
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How to prevent a gag reflex with false teeth
Dentures can activate the gag reflex by touching the palate. (Getty Images)

The gag reflex that you may encounter when you first wear false teeth is normal. Your gag reflex helps you to protect yourself from dangerous substances entering your body. The gag reflex is often activated when the roof of your mouth or the back of your tongue or throat area is touched, and is hyper-sensitised by your awareness and thought, explains Pacific Dental Care dentists. When you are first trying to become accustomed to false teeth or dentures, your gag reflex may be due to your increased awareness of the dentures and the areas they touch.

The gag reflex is a learnt or conditioned response. This is evident because you can tolerate food touching these areas when you are eating. Because it is a learnt response, you do have the power to recondition yourself. Most gag reflex issues will disappear as you get used to dentures, but there are some things you can do to hasten the process.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Water
  • Hard sweets
  • Small toothbrush

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Form a seal. This helps you accommodate the palate portion of your dentures. You can practice protecting your airway from the gag reflex by breathing through your nose, lifting the back of your tongue and touching it to the back of your palate (the soft tissue along the roof of your mouth). Try it again with your mouth open a bit. Practice this at least once a day until you can comfortably hold the position.

  2. 2

    Desensitise with a toothbrush. Rub a small toothbrush behind your front teeth until it is tolerable, and then begin massaging the front of your palate with the toothbrush until that is tolerable. Don't rush it, because you will activate and condition your gag reflex in ways that you don't want to, according to Newcastle Dentists. Massage your palate farther and farther back, allowing time for desensitisation each time.

  3. 3

    Drink lots of water. Much of the problem with the gag reflex and false teeth occurs because you are not used to having something in your mouth that isn't food. Your brain is conditioned to think of things in your mouth as food and activates your salivary glands. Excess saliva can trigger the gag reflex. Drink lots of water, says Dr. Frank Wiebelt in "The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies II," to wash away excess saliva.

  4. 4

    Suck on hard sweets. They gravitate to the roof of your mouth and can help resolve the dry mouth that can occur with new dentures as well as getting you used to objects touching your palate.

Tips and warnings

  • Try forming a seal to your airway when you are brushing your teeth.
  • Massage your palate in front of the TV or when you are otherwise relaxed.
  • Give it time. It takes four to six weeks to adjust to dentures.
  • You can get a training appliance from your dentist to help you learn to get used to your false teeth.
  • Hypnosis can help overcome conditioned gag reflex.
  • Initial gagging is common, according to Mission Prosthodontics. Don't insist that your upper denture is too long. Shortening your dentures can result in improper seals and many more problems.
  • Dentures that initiate the gag reflex after a long period of time may need to be adjusted. They may be too thick, too loose or too long. There are false teeth made without the palate portion that may help.
  • If you can afford them, dental implants can reduce the gag reflex that occurs with dentures.

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