One of the reasons why people seek out sedation dentistry is to calm their strong gag reflex. Having a strong gag reflex can make dental treatment very unpleasant. After all, the dentist and hygienist are constantly putting their hands and tools into your mouth. They have to reach all the way back to properly work on your teeth. (And if you don’t reach back too far when brushing thanks to your gag reflex, then your dentist or hygienist has to work back there a lot!)

But you don’t have to be sedated to deal with gagging. NuCalm can help control your gag reflex without drugs.

A girl holding her hands in front of her mouth at the dentist in fear of gagging. One of the reasons why people seek out NuCalm sedation dentistry is to calm their strong gag reflex.

How the Gag Reflex Works

The gag reflex, also called the pharyngeal reflex, is designed to keep us from choking. As such, it’s your body’s response to nonfood or too large objects entering the mouth or throat. It is designed to work automatically to protect us. Unfortunately, that means that it’s very hard to control the gag reflex. You can’t generally wish yourself to not gag.

The gag reflex is triggered when certain sensitive areas of the mouth or throat are touched. These areas vary by individual, but most often they include the soft palate, the back of the tongue, the tonsils, the uvula, and the back of the throat. How much of a touch is required also varies among individuals. A person whose gag reflex triggers with minimal touch is described as having a “strong” gag reflex. Other times, a person is said to have a “strong” gag reflex if they are more likely to retch or vomit. Some people–perhaps as many as  one in three–have no gag reflex at all.

When the relevant areas are touched, a signal passes from the touched area to the spine, where the reflex action is processed. At the spine, two different signals are sent out, one to the muscles to trigger the reflex action and the other to the brain to tell it about the touch.

This is why you can’t really control the gag reflex. By the time your brain knows about the touch, the muscles are already acting.

In the case of a gag reflex, the muscles that act are the muscles at the back of the throat, which contract to push any potential objects away from the throat to the front of the mouth.

Two Types of Stimuli

The above section is talking about the physical process of the gag reflex. This is what happens in response to a touch, which is a physical stimulus, called a somatogenic stimulus. However, there are also psychogenic stimuli, such as thoughts, that can cause you to gag. These types of stimuli are often situational, and relate to your attitudes about the situation in which you are experiencing the stimulus.

The two types often work together. For example, you might be able to smell mint toothpaste at home without a problem. However, at the dentist’s office, the smell of mint might make you gag. You associate the mint smell with the dentist doing things that make you gag.

If your gagging is related primarily to psychogenic stimuli, you might be able to control it using various approaches, such as distraction, meditation, and even pressure points. For many people with highly sensitive gag reflexes, this approach can get the problem under control so they can get through a doctor or dentist appointment. However, these techniques typically only provide limited relief, and it can take a long time to master them sufficiently to get any relief at all. If you’ve tried these techniques but still find yourself gagging, NuCalm can help.

How NuCalm Controls the Gag Reflex

NuCalm is a powerful remedy to gagging. It controls gagging from somatogenic and psychogenic stimuli. In order to trigger the gag reflex, your body will activate both parts of the autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic and parasympathetic. NuCalm works to control the autonomic nervous system and prevents these spikes in activity. The gag reflex is still functional, but it’s diminished. In addition, NuCalm disarms your body’s stress response. This eliminates many of the context clues that can set off your gag reflex. When you are calm, you are less defensive. Gagging is a defensive reflex.

That way, even people who normally have a very strong gag reflex can get treatment at the dentist without gagging.

If you are looking for a dentist who can help you enjoy gag-free treatment, please contact a local NuCalm dentist today.