Dental Tips Blog


Severe Gagging Reflex

There is a small percentage of the population that avoids dental care because they suffer from a severe gagging reflex.  These patients have an uncontrollable gagging reflex that can even be caused by eating or brushing their teeth.  They cannot tolerate normal dental procedures because the involuntary gag reflex is caused by the dental instruments or even the dentist’s fingers.

These patients also often have dental anxiety because of poor previous experiences at the dentist due to their gagging reflex.  As a result, many of these patients will avoid going to the dentist.  The lack of dental care results in poor oral health that can also cause other health issues.

Fortunately, patients with a severe gagging reflex can get great dental care by visiting a dentist who specializes in sleep and sedation dentistry.  These dentists have additional training and certification in sedation techniques.  Not all dentists practice sleep and sedation dentistry.  Only a small percentage of dentists have this specialized training.

Depending on the severity of the gagging reflex and the length of the procedure, the dentist may use one or more sedation techniques.  For short procedures or very mild gagging, nitrous oxide, local anesthesia, and a numbing throat spray is often sufficient to allow the patient to complete the procedure comfortably.

For more severe cases, conscious sedation with oral or intravenous sedatives is an excellent alternative.  Conscious sedation thoroughly relaxes a patient and allows the patient to be treated in the dentist’s office easily and comfortably.  Although the patient is conscious, many patients drowse through the procedure and most have little or no memory of the treatment.

In the most severe cases, treatment under general anesthesia in a specially equipped hospital operating room is necessary.

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