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Dental Fear and Gagging

An article from Dentistry Today about gagging and dental fear brought up an interesting thought. Many patients who fear the dentist do tend to have a sensitive, even hyperactive, gag reflex. While there are a number of techniques to suppress gagging, it is an intriguing correlation between one’s fear of the dentist, attitude towards dentists and dental equipment, and the sensitivity of their gag reflex may all be related. Distraction has been the most common technique used to alleviate the gag reflex, such as having music or video, which my office comes fully equipped with, but there may be other factors.

Some patients have a naturally sensitive gag reflex as well and simply gag if one reaches too far back into their mouth, especially in the rear molars. While this is perfectly normal and a protective measure by the body, it makes doing a cleaning or dental procedures difficult for the hygienist and dentist and unpleasant for the patient. Many patients can train themselves to relax and let the work be done, while others are either so anxious or sensitive, there may be a need for some form of sedation dentistry. While I can perform sleep dentistry, at least for routine dental work, this should be an absolute last resort and for only the most anxious and sensitive of fear and gagging

Throat numbing spray or snore relief spray, at least on anecdotal evidence, appears to reduce the gag reflex to help relax the patient’s throat and mouth, and allow them to sit, at least with some comfort, during procedures where gagging is common. Next time you feel like gagging and simply breathing isn’t working, try wiggling your toes or lifting your leg and focusing on that effort rather than what is happening in your mouth.

Another way to solve dental anxiety is to speak with your dentist and have your fears addressed. Sometimes, it is as simple as concerns about pain. In fact, this is the #1 issue people worry about when going to a dental visit, even for a simple cleaning. We are here to listen and understand your needs. If it is as simple as change the angle of an instrument or you are made uncomfortable by a certain tool, we will do our best to help you overcome your fear and help you relax. For many people, the fear comes from the loss of control and having to give yourself to ultimate trust of your dentist and hygienist, which is hard for many people. This is probably directly related to the thought of pain being the most common fear. When you are in the dental chair, you are pretty defenseless. Let me assure you, however, that your comfort is our priority and if you are uncomfortable or are in pain, let us know right away so we can make the changes to make your experience as pleasant as possible.

If you have any concerns about any procedure, please feel free to talk to myself (Dr. Zadeh) or one of my highly skilled staff. They can help answer your questions and work with you to overcome your concerns.

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