That gag reflex & dental impressions

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Print this page Email A Friend!

GETTING a dental impression is never a pleasant or comfortable procedure, but for those individuals who have an active gag reflex, the thought of suffering through the process is enough to cause nightmares.

Allowing your gag reflex to keep you from regular dental visits, however, is not the solution. There are ways to reduce the severity of your gag reflex during procedures like dental impressions if you let your dentist know of the issues beforehand.

What causes the gag reflex?

Your gag reflex is your body's natural defence mechanism that is intended to keep foreign objects out of your upper respiratory tract.

When your body senses something other than air headed towards your larynx, pharynx or trachea, your muscles spasm and contract uncontrollably as your body tries to force the foreign objects away from your airway.

When your dentist puts the dental impression tray in your mouth, the tray and the viscous impression material oozing in your mouth can cause your gag reflex to engage.

What you can do

There are a few things you can do to reduce the chance of gagging when the tray is in your mouth:

• Breathe through your nose. It's not easy remembering to breathe through your nose when your mouth is propped open, but focusing on breathing deeply through your nose can help you get through the minutes required to get a good impression. If you're congested, take a decongestant before your dental appointment, or perhaps try nasal strips designed for snoring cessation to help open your airways.

• Don't be afraid to drool. Drooling isn't elegant, but having your saliva drool out of your mouth is less likely to make you gag than trying to swallow when your mouth is filled with the impression material.

• Distract yourself. Bring a stress ball to squeeze, recite your multiplication tables, conjugate verbs in a foreign language, or anything else that will focus your mind away from what's going on in your mouth.

What your dentist can do

• Talk to you. Not all dentists are great conversationalists, but if yours is, ask him to talk to you while you have the tray in your mouth. As long as you aren't asked questions you can't answer, the distraction of a good story can help reduce the chance of gagging.

• Sit you up. If you are seated in an upright position, and tilt your head forward, the impression material will ooze forward, rather than toward your throat. This should reduce the chance of triggering your gag reflex while the impression is being made.

• Administer nitrous oxide. For severe gaggers, nitrous oxide commonly known as laughing gas has a significant effect on stopping or reducing the gag reflex.

A dental impression is an important part of the treatment you need to keep your teeth healthy and looking great. Don't let your fear of gagging keep you from a great smile.

Dr Sharon Robinson DDS has offices at the Dental Place Cosmetix Spa, located at Shop #5, Winchester Business Centre, 15 Hope Road, Kingston 10. Dr Robinson is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, School of Oral Health Sciences. She may be contacted at 630-4710. Like their Facebook page, Dental Place Cosmetix Spa, for an opportunity to take advantage of weekly specials.




1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed:

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email:

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

comments powered by Disqus



Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon