Wendy Parker, RDH
Your Gag Reflex
Gag reflexes are just not fun. There is no other way to put it. We all know they are designed to protect our airway from foreign objects, but why do they have to be so pronounced, especially at the dentist office! Well, here’s a little more about gag reflexes and maybe a few suggestions that will help next time you feel it starting to act up!
The gag reflex is a pharyngeal reflex by the back of your throat which is triggered any time an object touches the roof of your mouth, back of your tongue, tonsils, or back of your throat. It helps us prevent choking and is especially important in infant as they are transitioning from liquid foods to solids, until they’re about 6-7 months old. Some people have have a hypersensitive gag reflex that is triggered quickly anytime something touches the back of the throat or mouth. No one totally understands why some gag reflexes are more than others, but it is believed that people who did not have solid foods introduced to them until after 7 months of age tend to have a more sensitive gag reflex.
If you are one of the lucky few that have a hypersensitive gag reflex try these few tactics next time at the dentist:
- Numbing sprays or gels
- Squeeze your thumb during the procedure. This applies pressure to your palm of your hand that controls the gag reflex.
- Desensitize your tongue by brusing it every day
- Apply salt to the center of your tongue
- Meditation or hum
- Raise one leg slightly – this keeps your mind off what is happening to trigger your reflex
- Listen to music
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