No More Natural Teeth: Deciding Between Implants and Dentures

3 Ways Patients Can Resolve Strong Gag Reflexes At The Dentist

by Jeremiah Barnett

A hyperactive gag reflex, whether it's caused by anxiety or biomechanical issues, can be incredibly stressful if you have an upcoming dentist appointment. Some patients may worry about gagging, throwing up, or experiencing a panic attack. Thankfully there are ways to reduce sensitive gag reflexes so that you can have a good experience at the dentist. Here are three things to try.

Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry, or sleep dentistry, refers to medications that can help patients relax during procedures. There are different levels of sedation dentistry that you can try. If you don't have major anxiety and have a milder gag reflex, then semi-conscious sedation could be a good option. Your dentist may use nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas) or have you take an oral sedative right before your appointment. In extreme cases, a patient may prefer general anesthesia, where he or she would be asleep for the duration of the treatment. One study found that IV sedation could eliminate hyperactive gag reflexes for patients with anxiety. Talk with your dentist about your sedation options. If you are in good health and can tolerate sedation medications, then this could be a good route.


If you aren't a good candidate for sedation dentistry, you may want to talk to your dentist about mindful meditation training and diaphragmatic breathing. One trial found that three-day mindfulness training could change the structure of the amygdala, the brain structure that controls stress responses. If your gagging is mainly caused by anxiety, meditative practices before your appointment could be helpful.

Intraoral Devices

Some people have anatomical variations in their trigeminal and glossopharyngeal nerves that can contribute to sensitive gag reflexes. These patients may not experience any anxiety, but because their nerves are so sensitive, they will still experience gag reflexes with bulky x-ray sensors, impression materials—like alginate, and other dental tools that touch the soft palate. The good news is that a lot of dental tools are going digital, so instead of using bulky x-ray sensors or impression material, your dentist could use thinner intraoral wands to capture images of your teeth. If you mainly need diagnostic work done at your appointments, intraoral devices can be incredibly helpful at reducing strong gag reflexes. If your dentist still needs to do extensive work, like crown placements or scaling and root planing, then a portion of the appointment could also include sedation methods as well.

As you can see, see sedation density options, meditation, and intraoral devices can all be used to help patients with hyperactive gag reflexes. Reach out to a dentist in your area today to learn more.