Gagging reflex in dentist chair

Gagging reflex in dentist chair

Gag reflex or Pharyngeal reflex is a contraction which is basically a reflex. Reflex means an involuntary and instant response to a stimulus. The gag reflex is triggered in the back of the throat by the touching of the soft palate. The gag reflex prevents choking and also stops anything entering the throat. Gag reflex sensitivity varies from individual to individual.

Some individuals experience gag reflex during dental treatments. This makes the treatment difficult and thorny for the dentist as well as the patient. Gag reflex can be triggered by psychological factors, physiological factors or both. A few individuals have such a severe problem with gag reflex that they are not even able to brush their teeth properly.

As this is farily common, every dentist has treated patients with gag reflex. This is the reason dental experts have pointed out some factors which should be kept in mind during dental treatments to avoid gag reflex. Some important points are:

  • The patients should be directed to breathe through their nose only during the dental treatment.

  • A nasal decongestant is a device which can prove to be very helpful in preveting gag reflex. This device should be used before the dental treatment. The nasal decongestant effectively opens the nasal passageways and makes breathing through the nose easier.

  • Some dentists also use a throat spray to prevent gag reflex, particularly when the patient has a cough or asthma. The spray is used before the dental treatment and 2-3 sprays are usually enough to make the treatment easier.

  • Talking and communication with the dentist prevents gag reflex as well.

  • It is also a good idea for the patient to keep themselves distracted. This can be done by moving the foot up and down. Some experts say that the patient should move their foot up and down and count the times they do it. Care should be taken and only the foot should be moved, not the whole body.


To some extent, gag reflex is completely normal and natural. In fact, the absence of gag reflex could indicate and be a symptom of other severe medical conditions such as glossopharyngeal nerve damage, the vagus nerve being damaged or even brain death.

People experience gagging reflex when they try to swallow unusually large objects or try to place any object at the back of the mouth. Sometimes, people will intentionally trigger gag reflex in order to induce vomiting during certain medical conditions, such as bulimia nervosa.

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Gagging reflex in dentist chair

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