Severe Gag Reflex & Need Dental Work? Sedation Dentistry Can Help

Posted on: 11 April 2022

A gag reflex is normal in everyone. It's your body's natural, automatic mechanism to keep anything from entering the larynx, pharynx, and trachea. For some people, however, their gag reflex can be so severe that it makes it difficult for them to have any dental work done. It's very probable that they avoid going to the dentist because doing so can be a traumatizing experience. 

If this sounds like you, and you've been avoiding going to the dentist even though you desperately need to, sedation dentistry can help. Here's what you need to know. 

Severe Gag Reflex Can Be Controlled by IV Sedation

A severe gag reflex isn't something that you can control simply by will. Fortunately, IV sedation can control a severe gag reflex and prevent it from occurring while you're having a dental procedure done. In fact, research published by the National Institutes of Health says out of 60 cases in one study, none of them had to be discontinued due to the gag reflex not being controlled by IV sedation. 

IV sedation is conscious sedation, which means you will be awake enough to respond to questions and will be breathing on your own. The IV sedation medication decreases your sensation and gag threshold while stimulating deep relaxation. Typically, an anti-anxiety medication is also used to help you overcome the anxiousness you may feel.

Preparing for the Initial Sedation Dentistry Consult

During your first visit to a dentist that offers sedation dentistry, you will be asked a series of questions regarding your previous experiences with dentistry and sedation. If you've never been sedated before for any medical or dental reason, be sure to inform the dentist since there may be special protocols that would be necessary for you. 

Do your best to describe how you feel when you experience a gag reflex, including how it affects your anxiety and mental state. This will help the dentistry team determine what type of medication to use to induce sedation and how much to use. 

If it's been a while since you've had any dental imaging, the dentist will likely want an x-ray done. An intraoral camera may be used in place of any impressions that may be needed. Since your gag reflex is severe, you can have this done while sedated as well, but it may not be done on the same day unless you've been given pre-sedation directions to follow prior to the initial consultation.