How Does Sedation Dentistry Help Manage Gag Reflex Problems?

4 May 2023
 Categories: Dentist, Blog


Your gag reflex is a protective response to prevent large or harmful objects from getting stuck in the throat or swallowed. This usually happens when something touches the back of the tongue, the tonsils, or the top part of the throat.

However, some people have a stronger gag reflex than normal. If you have this problem, then dental appointments are difficult. You might gag during check-ups and procedures.  

If you have problems with your gag reflex, then you can try dental sedation. How does sedation help? What are your options here?

How Does Sedation Control Your Gag Reflex?

While a gag reflex is a primarily physical response, it can also have psychological triggers. Some people simply gag when their dentists go near the back of their mouths. Others get anxious about fingers or instruments triggering this reflex, at which point they might gag as soon as they open their mouths.

In either case, sedation can help control this response. Some anesthetics numb the nerves that make you gag; others relax your muscles. Both types of sedation reduce gagging or even stop the reflex from working temporarily.

Once sedated, you are less likely to gag; you'll be more relaxed and less anxious. Your dentist gets the time they need to work in your mouth. 

What Are Your Sedation Options?

Dentists use different types of sedation to help patients with strong gag reflexes. The anesthetic your dentist recommends often depends on the severity of your problem and the work they need to do.

For example, if you have minor gagging problems and you are simply having a check-up, then your dentist might use a topical anesthetic spray. This spray numbs the areas of your mouth around the back of your tongue and your throat. It suppresses your reflex for a short time.

If you have a much stronger gag reflex or are having a longer procedure, such as a filling, then your dentist might want to use a stronger sedative. For example, they might suggest that you use nitrous oxide gas. This gas creates a feeling of relaxation, well-being, and euphoria. It suppresses certain physical actions such as gagging.

If you have a more severe gag reflex problem or need longer and more intensive treatment such as a crown, tooth extraction, or implant, then your dentist might use an IV oral sedative. This is a deeper sedative. It usually shuts off your gag reflex completely.

To find out more about having a sedation dental treatment, talk to a dentist.