Thursday, July 26, 2012

Are You A Mouth Breather? Have a Strong Gag Reflex? Here's How to cope at the Dentist

It’s estimated that 5% of the population has a fear of the dentist that’s so severe, they’re willing to endure a painful toothache for weeks rather than seek help.  

One of the most common reasons that people fear going to the dentist is because they have a strong gag reflex, which can make any dental procedure extremely uncomfortable.   There are, however, some easy techniques that we use at Wilmette Dental to minimize a strong gag reflex. 

First, we try to make the patient as relaxed as possible, because stress alone can increase the gag response.  With some of our hygiene patients, we administer a little table salt to the tip of the tongue before the cleaning.  This helps distract the taste buds, which in turn, can lessen the urge to gag. 

We also suggest that patients who have this problem spray with a sore throat spray before a procedure.  This will numb the back of the throat, reducing the gag reflex.  Of course, we always incorporate frequent breaks in which the patient can sit up and relax for a moment.   

Another problem common among those fearful of dentists is an inability to breathe through the nose...“How will I get through an entire appointment if I can’t breathe through my nose?”  For mouth breathers, this can be a big concern, but it’s one easily remedied by using an over the counter nasal decongestant just before the appointment.  A decongestant will clear the nasal sinuses so that nose breathing is much easier during an appointment.  Frequent breaks, too, where the patient can relax a moment and take some nice, deep breaths are a part of every procedure.

Ultimately, a patient who is at ease will have few problems during a procedure.  We strive for just that:  a patient who, while maybe not delighted to be in the chair, is at least extremely comfortable.

Looking for a new, gentle dentist?  Wilmette Dental has helped Chicago area dental phobics for more than 30 years.  Visit our website at

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