Getting X-rays on Gaggers


Patients that have a sensitive gag reflex are very common in the dental office. This can be very challenging when you are trying to perform dental procedures.


What causes gagging?

Gagging can be due to psychological factors, or physiological factors, or both.


Psychological factors can include fear of loss of control or vomiting and/or past traumatic experiences.


Physiological factors can include the patient feeling like they are choking or can not breath.


What you can do?


If you have a patient that has a gag reflex that is preventing you from doing your job,  getting good films or placing sealants.


Do not get upset,  first talk softly and calmly and explain what you are going to do step by step.


For many people, there is a sense of loss of control in a dental chair, during treatment and the tendency to gag stems from that.


To gain their trust,  find something that gives them their sense of control back, it can make all the difference.


These two techniques can make the difference between getting a good x-ray and not getting a x-ray at all for some patients.


You can place a little topical anesthetic on the lateral sides of their tongue with a q-tip then retry the procedure.


Let the patient choose the flavor. Place the topical, or help place the film.


If the patient is still having gagging issues you can also put a little on the soft palate using a q-tip, go slowly so you will not gag them.


We have found this technique works on 99 % of the patients we have used it on.


For young children: if you can not get the x-rays, maybe reschedule for another time, you do not want to be their bad memory or experience.


Other suggestions:

Try a throat spray with numbing action, like Vicks Ultra Chloraseptic Throat Spray, it can give relieve to not only a gag reflex but also help people with a persistant cough or dry throat feeling.

                          Dosage: 2 or 3 sprays right before treatment. Repeat if necessary.


We have had patients with a bad gag reflex suggest that using a nasal decongestant before their appointments is very helpful in keeping the nasal passageways open to promote breathing through the nose and help prevent gagging.


Another tip for handling gaggers is the use of table salt on the tip of the tongue or under the tongue.


Have the patient to dip their moist finger into a dampen dish of salt and dab it onto the tip of their tongue or just under on the frenum attachment.


You can also try a saline rinse for a have them swish 1-2 minutes Normasol is a (0.9% saline solution)


For references and more information: