How to Avoid Gagging During a Dental Appointment

Written by dawna theo
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How to Avoid Gagging During a Dental Appointment
Remain calm during your dental procedure to avoid gagging. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Gagging during a dental treatment is very uncomfortable, to say the least. If you tend to gag in the dental chair, you are not alone. It is very common during cleanings, X-rays or other types of dental procedures. Gagging is controllable -- to a certain extent -- if the dentist is sensitive and employs methods to avoid setting off the gag reflex. As a patient, there are steps to feeling relaxed and prevent gagging.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Decongestant
  • Nasal strips
  • Numbing throat spray
  • Sal-tropine
  • Lidocaine
  • Nitrous oxide

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  1. 1

    Avoid dental work when you are congested. Having a plugged nose requires you to breathe out of your mouth, which may exacerbate the gagging reflex. Use a decongestant or a nasal spray before your procedure to clear your sinuses. Breathing through your nose during dental work is very important. Inhale deeply and slowly through your nose. Some people have found that using nasal strips to open up the sinuses also helps you to achieve a more relaxed breathing pattern. Nasal strips are sold over the counter.

  2. 2

    Numb your throat with a numbing throat spray. Throat sprays are sold over the counter in the cold and flu section as a sore throat spray. Feel free to request your dentist to administer a little bit of topical lidocaine on the back of your tongue to relax your throat.

  3. 3

    Request sal-tropine from your dentistto reduce gagging on your saliva. Before your appointment, your dentist can prescribe sal-tropine or he can give you a couple of tablets to take one hour prior to your appointment to slow down the salivary glands.

  4. 4

    Ask your dentist if you can sit up instead of lying down during your dental treatment. You will probably gag less if you are elevated even into a semi-reclining position, instead of laying all the way back.

  5. 5

    Choose a dentist that has a television on the ceiling or wall above your chair. If the television is equipped, ask him or his dental assistant to turn on the closed caption print on the bottom of the screen. Distract yourself from the dental procedure by focusing on the subject matter you are viewing.

  6. 6

    Talk to your dentist before your treatment and tell him that you tend to have an overactive gag reflex. Tell him that you may ask him to stop during the procedure so you can calm the muscles in your throat and stop gagging.

  7. 7

    Request nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas) to completely relax during your dental treatment. Nitrous oxide is very effective in stopping an overactive gag reflex.

  8. 8

    Remember that you are not really choking during your dental procedure. Usually people with a sensitive gag reflex have an overactive imagination and a phobia of dental work. Remain calm and relaxed. Most dentists and dental assistants are used to patients gagging during procedures. If you have tried all techniques to stop your gagging and are not successful, it may be necessary to be sedated. Consult with your dentist to determine if sedation is a viable option.

Tips and warnings

  • Always consult your dentist about taking medications before your dental procedure, including over-the-counter decongestants.

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