When you try to swallow something foreign, a gag reflex can be triggered. It occurs at your mouth’s back, and it’s the body’s reaction to prevent unusual swallowing. A gag reflex is a common occurrence but can create problems if excessively sensitive.  

A gag reflex can also occur during a routine dental visit or when your doctor uses a laryngoscope. For some people swallowing a pill can also be triggering. So is it possible to prevent gag reflex from getting in the way of your overall health? This blog will enlist 7 effective ways to get rid of a gag reflex. 

What is gagging?

In easy terms, gagging is the reverse of swallowing. During a gag reflex, muscles at the back of your mouth work to stop the foreign object from entering your throat. The pharynx shrinks, and the larynx goes up.     

Think of gagging as a mechanism against unusual swallowing and ingestion. This movement at the back of your throat is guided by nerves and muscles and is an example of neuromuscular transmission. 

If your child is under 4 years of age and gags, don’t worry. Gagging is normal for children this age. As a child grows, their oral functions become more responsible, preventing frequent gagging. Children start inhaling and exhaling through their noses. Breathing and suctioning are eventually replaced by proper swallowing.      

Adults who experience chronic gagging often find it difficult to swallow. People with dysphagia also encounter additional triggers that provoke gag reflex occasionally.   

Types of gagging

A person may gag due to two reasons: physical and psychological. Physical triggers called somatogenic, and metal as psychogenic often come together. Physical touch can bring along the thought of touch together with visual, sound, or smell and cause gag.   

These are five sensitive places near your mouth’s back that can lead o gagging when stimulated.  

  • tongue’s base
  • uvula
  • fauces
  • palate
  • back of your pharyngeal wall

Touch or any other sense when triggers any of these spots; the gagging signals travel from nerves to the brain stem. The brain commands the muscles in your mouth’s back to shrink and cause gagging.    

Vagus, glossopharyngeal, and trigeminal nerves are responsible for transmitting these signals. 

In some cases, the gag reflex can also trigger the cerebral cortex that contains sensory and motor areas. This means that even if you think about something that may give you a reflex, you’ll experience one.   

  Gagging can occur due to several factors combined together. You may gag during a dental visit for teeth cleaning because more than one of your senses gets triggered.  

When you carry out the same type of dental cleaning at home, you may not gag because the stimulants from the dentist’s chair are absent. 

Symptoms of gagging

The medulla is critical in sending signals between the spinal cord and higher brain parts and manages autonomic activities like breathing and heartbeat. This means that while gagging a person may also experience some added symptoms such as: 

  • watery eyes
  • raised heartbeat
  • drooling
  • sweating
  • loss of consciousness
  • panic attack

How to get rid of a gag reflex?

Does your overly sensitive gag reflex impacts your health or interrupts your daily routine? If yes, we’re sure you want to control it.    

To get rid of your gag reflex, one may have to try several techniques and determine what works best for them. If it happens to you during a dental or doctors’ visit, you can discuss your issue with your doctor or dentists and look for alternative options.    

Here are some methods that can help get rid of gagging. 

Psychological therapy

For many individuals, the reason for gagging can be purely psychological. To control this, you need to undergo mental treatments to manage other external factors that impact your psychological state or behavior. You can try to incorporate the following into your daily routine.    

  • diverting your attention to something else
  • relaxation techniques
  • hypnotherapy
  • desensitization
  • cognitive behavioral therapy

Nitrous oxide or anesthesia

The use of anesthesia, local or general, can help relieve gag reflex during a medical or oral procedure that arouses gagging. Nitrous oxide is another agent to be used during certain procedures. Your provider will decide what is best for you.  

Treatment changes

If you have a sensitive gag reflex talk to your dentist or doctor prior to the treatment. They can then alter the way they perform the procedure or form a prosthetic that will help with your issue. For instance, if your current dentures induce a gag reflex, you may get a modified version.   

Acupuncture or acupressure

If you want to try an entirely different technique to minimize or get rid of gag reflex, acupuncture is an ancient method that you can try. This method involves the use of needles injected into specific parts of your body. This helps your body find the right balance that resolves many issues. 

Another technique is acupressure which uses pressure application instead of needles.   

Topical ointments and medications

Oral medications and topical ointments can help reduce the severity of your gag reflex. The possibilities include medications to control nausea and vomiting and manipulate brain functions. Antihistamines can help alleviate gagging due to allergies. Sedatives relax the mouth and throat muscles that decrease the chances of gag reaction. 

Changing the way you swallow

For some people swallowing a pill can induce a gag reflex. Doing this in a specific way can help get rid of this gag. For example, some may wash down a pill by drinking water from a glass or a bottle with a broad girth. This may cause problems. Try drinking from a small necked bottle. Also, while swallowing a tablet with water point your chin downwards. 

Temporal Tap

Another way to alleviate or get rid of the gag reflex is a temporal tap. You can either follow this technique at home or head to your dentist for help. Temporal tapping begins in a circular motion in the front of the ear, and slowly the movement reaches the ear’s back. 

Many patients have found this technique to be highly effective, and also, it’s really easy to do. This method works in a simple manner. The tapping creates vibrations that stimulate the vestibular system. If motion sickness causes you nausea or vomiting, it’s the vestibular system behind it. Temporal tapping reverses the function of the vestibular system and reduces gagging.   

Other things to consider

For maintaining good oral and overall health, it’s important that you eliminate a sensitive gag reflex. For example, you need to take the necessary medications. Still, you are avoiding them due to gagging, or your toothache needs a dental visit, but you’re reluctant to visit due to gag reflex. You may be afraid of visiting your doctor for strep throat because you know your doctor will use a throat swab for examination. Note that this isn’t favorable for your body.

Don’t allow your gag reflex to interfere with your well-being. If you find it hard to control gagging while brushing your teeth or tongue, ask for help from your doctor or dentist. They may show you adjusted procedures for oral hygiene or suggest specific items like toothpastes that assist with controlling gagging. 

Why are some people sensitive?

Gagging is a usual reaction of your body, and a person may or may not have it during their adult life. You may gag in some conditions, like during a dental checkup or when swallowing a pill.

A good number of people may gag when sitting in a dental chair. This can occur due to physical touch or triggering of other senses that happen during the examination.      

You may also experience gagging during a dental appointment due to the following: 

  • congested nasal passages
  • gastrointestinal disorder
  • soft palate shaped differently
  • ill-fitted dentures
  • smoking too much

Swallowing pills can be extremely difficult for some people, and they may choke, gag or vomit while doing so. 

There are different levels of gagging, and the triggers of gag reflex determine the level. For a nominal gag reflex, management is easier. But one may have sensations during certain conditions such as extensive oral procedure.  

Does everyone have it?

It’s possible that out of many individuals, you never experience a gag reflex. The reasons for this could be that the stimulating areas inside your mouth are not very sensitive to physical touch or other senses.  

It is also possible that a person may only experience gagging on severe occasions and, up till now, haven’t been exposed to such a situation that stimulates a gag reflex.  

Summing Up

If you gag from time to time, there’s nothing wrong. Your body will normally do it to avoid swallowing anything false. But if you experience a gag reflex too often that it’s impacting your health, you should seek medical help. 

Several methods can help manage gagging, and many techniques can help treat an overly sensitive gag reflex. Looking for a dental appointment, call Rodeo Dental & Orthodontics today.