The gag reflex is a useful feature of the human anatomy, evolved to help stop us from poisoning ourselves by eating bad food. Unfortunately, it's a feature that isn't always a joy to have.
Most people have experienced uncontrollable gagging when smelling something foul or seeing something deeply unpleasant. Normally, it's not something that happens often, thankfully, and the sensation tends to go away quickly.
For some, however, the gag reflex is a constant burden. People who have an overly sensitive gag reflex find it causes problems in all areas of life. The slightest thing can set it off, and in some cases will lead to people vomiting. Even if that doesn't happen, though, it's problematic, and perhaps never more so than in the dentist's chair.
If your sensitive gag reflex has made it difficult for you to visit a dentist, here are some tips that may help you.
Practice breathing techniques
The problem with a sensitive gag reflex is that it can often become worse under stress, but it also causes stress, leading to an unbreakable cycle. Breathing techniques can help to combat this.
Looking into slow breathing and meditation can give you a set of tools to help deal with your gagging problems, but make sure you practice a lot in a calm setting.
Use a throat spray
There are two different types of spray that a lot of people find effective. One is a numbing spray that's aimed at people with sore throats. The other is a product that stops snoring. Try both of them to see if they work for you, as they can be a lifeline when you can't stop gagging. They typically last for around an hour, so make sure you take them at the right time if you're going to the dentist.
Try the left hand trick
This is a strange one, but quite a few people have reported success with it. Make a fist with your left hand, but squeeze your thumb with the other fingers. People claim that it 'turns off' the gag reflex, bringing you relief, but scientists haven't been able to explain why it would work. It's worth a try, though, as it's a technique that needs no extra equipment or practice.
Condition your gag reflex
With practice, you can reduce how easily you gag. It takes a lot of time and patience but can produce excellent results. All you need to do is place an object such as a spoon or your toothbrush in your mouth as far back as you can without gagging. Go carefully, and gradually increase how far back you go over time, and you can make the reflex less sensitive.