Gagging can cause people to have a lot of anxiety about dental treatment, especially impressions of your teeth. It is still an unfortunate part of dentistry that we have to take trays filled with goop and put them in your mouth for several minutes. This can be challenging even for people without a bad gag reflex. One of these days this will all be replaced by digital impressions (sooner rather than later) but until that day comes, there will be a need for techniques to help you reduce gagging during dental procedures.
Take these tips from someone who has a severe gag reflex (and yet I still became a dentist somehow). I was the kid you’d hear down the hall at the dentist’s office, gagging and choking with the smallest thing in my mouth. My least favorite were the fluoride trays they’d do at each visit.
One day I was in dental school and they told us that we’d need to take impressions on each other until we got them just right. I thought it would be the worst day of my life! That was the day I learned that there are a lot of things you can do to help your gagging. In fact, I learned that a lot of what you need to do to help your gagging is mental! One entire evening, and twenty impressions later, and my gag reflex was much improved. Here’s what I learned from that day as well as many years of dental practice helping guide gaggers through some difficult procedures!
- Try putting some salt on the tip of your tongue.
- Anesthetic spray in the back of your mouth can desensitize the areas that stimulate your gag reflex.
- Laughing gas (nitrous oxide) is commonly used to help people with a strong gag reflex. It helps you relax and not be quite as sensitive to the sensations.
- Mentally prepare yourself before the impression. A lot of your gag reflex is a result of thinking you’re going to have a bad gag reflex. Once you can get over this, it is much easier.
- Lean forward (definitely not backwards). This will make sure the material doesn’t flow backward out of the tray and into your throat.
- Breathe deeply in and out through your nose.
- Distract yourself during the impression. You can do this mentally by thinking about somewhere else, or physically by making a fist with your hands or a pushing a fingernail into your skin to cause some slight discomfort.
- If all else fails, remember that it will be over within a couple of minutes!