Your gag reflex is a natural, involuntary contraction of muscles in your throat that serves to prevent unwanted foreign objects from entering. It’s an adaptation of the human body that also prevents choking. However, there might be circumstances where your gag reflex triggers far too easily, such as when you’re brushing your teeth, receiving an oral medical swab, or at the dentist’s office. In these instances, it’s useful to know how to get rid of your gag reflex.
So in this post, we’ll let you know how you can desensitize your gag reflex and get accustomed to activities that might trigger it. Our expert holistic dentist in Sugar Land has compiled a list of three things for you to try.
Explained: How The Gag Reflex Works
Normally, the gag reflex results from stimulation or irritation of certain sensitive areas near the pharynx, which is at the back of the throat. These include the uvula, the roof of your mouth, and the back of the tongue. And as we mentioned earlier, your gag reflex’s basic purpose is to prevent swallowing. But not everyone is equally sensitive to it – while some might experience a mild retching or choking sensation, others might violently retch and even vomit. In addition, feelings of anxiety and stress could also trigger your gag reflex, even without any physical contact.
But why does this happen? Well, it’s all down to the way reflexes work.
What Are Reflexes For?
Reflexes are actions that occur involuntarily, requiring no conscious thought. They happen almost instantaneously in response to a certain stimulus and often end before the person knows what happened. A well-known example is the patellar reflex, which involves striking the base of the kneecap with a hammer. A person with healthy reflexes will instantly jerk their leg forwards.
While the knee-jerk reflex is fairly simple, the gag reflex involves a complicated series of muscular contractions. It can occur in response to various stimuli, such as touch, sight, smell, and even sound.
Healthy reflexes are important because they show that the central or peripheral nervous system is working correctly. However, an overactive gag reflex is rarely useful – so let’s learn how to resist it.
How To Get Rid Of Your Gag Reflex
Getting rid of your gag reflex won’t happen overnight, as it takes time for your body to desensitize itself to stimuli. But it is indeed possible, as is the case with performers who swallow swords, for example. And while you might not want to make a career out of sword-swallowing, you would benefit from not having to struggle to keep your breakfast down while you brush your tongue, take your medication, or are at the dentist’s office.
- Try acupuncture. An alternative medical procedure, acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into the skin at certain trigger points in the body. A licensed acupuncturist may insert needles into the front of the wrist, a specific point on the ears, or a specific point on the chin.
- Practice desensitization. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to brush your tongue until you reach the point where you feel like you might gag. Gently continue to brush this area for about 10 seconds, reaching the point where you’re about to gag and try to hold it back. Don’t stimulate the reflex; just get close to it. Over time, you can repeat the process and reach farther back, slowly increasing the amount of time and the reach of your brush.
- Use a pill-swallowing method. If you’re someone who gags while attempting to swallow a pill, try one of the various pill-swallowing methods. For example, put the pill on your tongue, and sip some water. Then, tilt your chin towards your chest and drink some more water, swallowing the pill along with it. This method has been studied to improve swallowing for the majority of people who tried it.
Conclusion: Results Take Time
Desensitizing your gag reflex takes time as you’re trying to reprogram certain innate neural pathways that have been established for years. So it’s important to be patient, take your time, and understand that consistency brings results.
However, consult a qualified dental and oral health professional if you have any questions or concerns about your gag reflex or are struggling to keep it under control.
Luxe Dental Arts is your premier holistic dentistry in Sugar Land, TX, specializing in high-quality dentistry with a gentle touch. We use advanced, modern techniques to give you the best possible treatment. Give us a call at (281) 969-7456, and we’ll be happy to help!