Gagging and the gag reflex.

What’s this gagging?:

Have you ever experienced a feeling when you are brushing your tongue where all of a sudden, you almost have the urge to vomit? If so, you have activated your gag reflex, also known as the pharyngeal reflex. The gag reflex is usually described by a contraction of the back of the throat in response to an object touching the posterior part of the tongue, the roof of your mouth, or really any area at the back of the throat. It helps to prevent us from choking or ingesting harmful substances. [1]

I have never known the severity of a gag reflex until meeting patients that have been really difficult to treat because of a gagging issue. In fact, I have come to meet some individuals with such a severe gag reflex that brushing or flossing their teeth is a major problem. Imagine the difficulties they would have keeping up with dental hygiene at home. Patients have confessed that eating certain foods have also become problematic. This can result in picky eating and/or malnourishment.[2] And while some patients claim to have this issue since infancy, others seem to develop it as an adult.

Gagging at the slight touch of a dental instrument in the mouth could very much also be psychological. Maybe your anxiety in the dental office is getting the best of you.

“Well, I don’t know why I gag so much. Is there any way I can stop gagging?”

The first step should be to figure out what is causing the gagging. Removing the gag reflex during dental work could be just a simple yelling of “aaaaahhhh” or require simple to heavy sedation. You could just as easily see a huge difference in the activation of your gag reflex by not eating for a certain number of hours prior to sitting in the dental chair. Perhaps you could ask your dentist to distract you or have you calculate math problems. Depending on the type of dental treatment required and the location in the mouth Oral or I.V. Sedation will be required. Back molars are harder to treat than front teeth and lowers next to the tongue more difficult than uppers.

The best way to determine how to treat your gagging is to have a simple dental exam. Often we can take the initial X-rays outside your mouth. A panorex type X-ray only requires the patient to bite on a stick using the front incisor teeth.

For additional information on gagging and the dentist follow the links below or call for a free consultation without an obligation.

[1]Anxiety Symptoms Series:
[2] What is the Gag Reflex?:
[3]A Long-Term therapeutic Treatment For Patients With a Severe Gag Reflex:

Katherine Dr. Gottlieb's dental assistant.  

Written by Katherine Ynsinare  DA
Anxiety Free Dental Levittown, NY 11756

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Dr. Marc Gottlieb is one of Long Island's leading dental practicioners, specializing in helping those who feel anxiety or apprehension when visiting the dentist. He can be reached at