How to Prevent Gagging During a Dental Appointment

For some patients, gagging is an unfortunate side effect of visiting the dentist. Even when nothing is touching the gag reflex, these patients will mentally convince themselves that they are about to gag. According to Dr. Robert Kacmacik, a cosmetic dentist in Hockessin, Delaware, having anxiety or fear over gagging at the dentist’s office is a common problem that many people suffer from.

Many dentists, including Dr. Kacmacik, have been working with people who have sensitive gag reflexes for years, and in that time Dr. Kacmacik says he personally has developed a number of tips and tricks for helping patients feel more comfortable in these types of situations. Assuming that a patient is mentally convincing himself that he has a gagging problem—which is the case when people begin gagging before any medical instruments are even inserted into their mouths—he can just as easily talk himself out of gagging if a dentist can put him in the proper mindset.

For other dentists who are treating patients with strong gagging reflexes, and for patients who are looking for ways to prevent themselves from gagging during basic dental check-up appointments, Dr. Kacmacik says the best tool that a cosmetic dentist has at his disposal is distraction. At his practice, Dr. Kacmacik tries to distract patients with sensitive gag reflexes to keep them from thinking about the instruments and tools that are inside their mouths.

If a patient comes into Dr. Kacmacik’s practice who is a known gagger, then he will try using some of his tricks to help the person through the appointment, such as asking the person to put his tongue on the roof of his mouth or to lift up his left foot in an effort to distract the patient from what is really going on inside his mouth. While it is possible, Dr. Kacmacik explains, for a dentist to make anyone gag if he pushes a tongue depressor far enough into the mouth, for people with a very strong gag reflex, just the anticipation of having that reflex stimulated is enough to cause them to gag. Therefore, if the patient is distracted and unaware of what is going on, his gag reflex will usually not kick in.

Dr. Kacmacik says that another trick is to use a mouth prop device that patients can bite on. The mouth prop not only gives patients something they can feel and control in their mouths, but also forces their mouths to stay open a certain amount so the dentist can do his work. Finally, in addition to distraction and mouth props, Dr. Kacmacik says that education and knowledge can go a long way in calming patients’ nerves and helping them feel more relaxed. The most important thing that Dr. Kacmacik says he can do to help patients through the process is to foster open communication. By making Dr. Kacmacik and his staff aware of your sensitive gag reflex, they will do everything possible to ensure the appointment is as comfortable as possible and that you know what to expect at all times.

*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.

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