Mild to moderate gagging is a relatively common experience when getting dental x-rays. Your dentist inserts the bulky bite piece in the back of your mouth between your teeth and cheek, then your gag reflex kicks in as you try to swallow the saliva.
Regular x-rays of your teeth are an important step in dental care, but gagging through your dental care can be a stressful issue, especially if dental anxiety triggers your gag reflex before the x-rays even begin. Fortunately, there are steps both you and your dentist can take to make the experience easier.
Why Some People Gag During X-Rays
The gag reflex is one of our body’s natural reactions. It is designed to keep us safe if we swallow something that might be a choking hazard. It happens without conscious thought.
When an object touches the roof of the mouth, the back of the throat or tongue, or the uvula, the gag reflex activates. This causes the tissues in your throat to constrict and makes you gag, or feel like vomiting. If you were about to swallow a solid object, gagging prevents it from happening so you don’t choke.
During a dental x-ray, people naturally swallow as the saliva builds up in their mouths around the mouthpiece. Swallowing then brings the mouthpiece into contact with those sensitive areas of the mouth and throat, prompting them to gag.
But you may have also gagged without something in your mouth. Some people with more sensitive gag reflexes may gag when they see, smell, or think of something gross. If dental every-rays have caused you to gag in the past, just the thought of them or seeing the equipment may initiate your gag reflex.
How to Keep Yourself from Gagging
Although there is no reason to be embarrassed about your gag reflex, it can still be stressful and make the dental x-ray experience more challenging for you. Here are some tips to limit manage your response during x-rays:
- Distract Yourself – Breathing deeply through your nose, wiggling your toes, or putting a bit of salt on the end of your tongue can keep your mind off what’s in your mouth.
- Bite Down Firmly on the Bite Piece – By biting down firmly, you reduce the risk of the bite piece accidentally brushing a sensitive area.
- Let Yourself Drool – Since swallowing will often trigger the gag reflex, it is alright to drool rather than attempting to swallow saliva.
More importantly, however, is to discuss the reflex with your dentist. A gag reflex is natural and dental anxiety is not uncommon. As dentists, we have worked with many patients who experience the same reaction as you do when we bring out the x-ray machine and we have a variety of strategies we can use to make routine dental care more comfortable.
If you have had unpleasant experiences with dental x-rays at other practices, our dedication to gentle and caring dentistry can help make your dental care a more enjoyable way to maintain your oral health. Call our team at Romie Lane Dentist to find out more about our dental x-ray options.