Question: Can sedation help if I have a really big gag reflex?

 

Answer: Yes, sedation can minimize and often times completely eliminate it completely. The gag reflex refers to the response cause when the tissue in the back of the throat is irritated. There are multiple nerve endings located in the back of the throat and the "uvula", the flap of tissue that hands down in the throat and vibrates when a person says "ahhhhh". When foreign objects come in contact with this area such as impression material, filling material, cotton, the gag reflex is stimulated further producing a vomiting response. There is a great deal of variety of the intensity in gag reflex from person to person.

 

There are multiple treatment modalities to help improve or lessen the gag reflex. Topical anesthetic spray can be used at the back of the throat producing numbness or suppression of the gag reflex within seconds and up to 15-20 minutes. Nitrous oxide, aka laughing gas, can also work on the higher centers of the brain to also help with reducing gagging. If topical spray and laughing gas are not sufficient, oral and/or IV sedation can likely remove all the normal gag reflex reactions. With sedation, the muscles in the mouth and throat are more relaxed decreasing the likelihood of a gag reaction.

 

With sedation, routine dentistry, impressions, extractions, etc. can be accomplished in a short amount of time while minimizing the gag reflex often encountered in patients.

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