Do you find your gag reflex in high alert when you go to the dentist? It’s embarrassing and uncomfortable, but you’re not alone. About one in five of us experience the gag reflex during a dental exam.
Many people are nervous when they go to the dentist. That’s normal. During your treatment, your dentist may inadvertently touch the soft palate at the back of your throat – triggering your gag reflex. This can happen when your dentist positions X-ray films or takes tooth impressions. Fear makes your gag mechanism worse. These few simple tips will help you control your gag reflex:
- Be on time for your appointment. When you’re calm and relaxed, you’re less likely to work yourself up for your dental appointment.
- Confide your concerns to the dentist or dental hygienist who is working with you. They will appreciate the heads up and make efforts to do what they can to make your experience more comfortable.
- Don’t forget to breathe. Concentrate on breathing through your nose when you have instruments in your mouth.
- Distract yourself during the dental procedure. Lift your right foot up and down five times and do the same with your left foot. Move your feet gently so you don’t disrupt what your dentist is trying to do. Take note of your surroundings, listen to music or engage in conversation with your provider.
If you have a sensitive gag reflex, certain techniques, such as hypnosis, acupressure, or acupuncture—can help you relax.
Remember: It’s important to have a dental checkup even if you have a good home care routine. A professional cleaning can rid your teeth of calcified plaque, also known as tartar, which can build up in hard-to-reach places. Your dentist can also determine if your oral health problems may actually be symptoms of other health problems. If you’d like more tips on what to expect when you go to the dentist, read more.