There are many things we can do to make patients comfortable at the dentist and make dental care available without the fear or dental anxiety. Dental visits most often begin with dental X-rays. We can use mouth rinses that dull sensation to help the X-ray process. Panoramic X-rays are also available, which goes around outside the patient’s head, where no dental film is placed inside the mouth at all. If need be, all X-rays can be taken while the patient sleeps under sedation. There are techniques with local anesthesia (commonly called novacaine) that can numb the tongue and palate to reduce gagging. Various forms of sedation are available that generally can make patients entirely free from the gag reflex.
The purpose of the initial consultation is to learn the needs of the patient and begin to develop a plan of care so that the patient can have their dental care in comfort, their way. We hope that our patients will always be able to tell us how they feel, and what we can do to make them the most comfortable.
What triggers the gag reflex?
The gag reflex is the body’s natural defense mechanism that keeps foreign objects out of your upper respiratory tract. When the body senses something other than air headed down the larynx, pharynx, or trachea, the muscles in the area spasm and contract.
Dental impression trays, especially with the impression material, and the x-ray process can cause this gag reflex.
Are there ways to lessen the gag reflex?
We can work together to overcome the gag reflex.
Things you can do…
Focus on breathing through your nose — Focusing on breathing deeply through your nose will help you relax.
Think of something else — Work on conjugations from French class, or run through multiplication tables, or list all 50 states. Distracting your brain can make the time pass quickly.
What We Can Do to Help
Dr. Lichtenstein is well aware of this issue, having many years of experience. We hear you and are here to help you. There are subtle actions we take in the office that can help avoid the situation.
We sit you upright — This posture is less likely to trigger a gag reflex.
We give you nitrous or sedation — A little laughing gas can ease the anxiety and soothe the gag reflex
We can help distract you by talking to you and lightening the mood!