It is a natural protective reflex. What is it protecting? It is a protection of our survival-breathing. Behind our tongue and roof of our mouth is the air flow to our lungs for breathing. How long can you hold your breath? Not very long. Our body recognizes things in our mouths that can potentially block the passage way and creates a protecting ejection of that thing. It could be a piece of food not properly chewed into smaller pieces, hard candy, gum or even a denture that is too long into the throat.
Lets remember that our bodies have smart protective mechanisms. If we tend to have this gag reflex, there must be a reason why it is so amplified. Most often the airway passage may already be less open than ideal. Commonly, these people have anatomy that reduces the diameter of the airway, because of genetics or development. They are much more prone to obstructive sleep apnea or sleep disrupted breathing. This should be investigated with one of many types of a sleep study.
The wrong type of night time teeth guard can increase the gag reflex while sleeping and then to awake with the plastic device sitting on the sheets next to you. The temporal mandibular joint is thought of as the joint of the air passage way since its muscles affect the flexibility and openness of the airway. Gaggers may have yet unnoticed TMJ, clenching, grinding problems.
When awake the gag response can be learned to be reduced. Here are some ways:
1. Hypnosis can teach the mind to recognize this as a lower level of threat, to reduce the reaction.
2. Clearing nose breathing improve the breathing ability. This can be done by prescription decongestants or over the counter ones. To avoid all the chemicals you are absorbing into you body, I would recommend a natural product called “Xclear” available at Walgreens.
3. Spray anesthetic into the back of the mouth. Sore throat sprays and lounges have a slight numbing ability. Also prescription sprays and rinses can temporarily remove the reflex.
4. Training yourself. Get a bag of old fashion glass marbles. Hold one in your mouth for an extended period of time. The touching of the tissue desensitizes the reflex. When you are doing great with one, hold two in your mouth. With two working, try three. With this your gagging reflex should be reduced. What if you were to accidently swallow one? Since it is round and not digestible, it should pass right through. Caution would be people with diverticulitis or other digestive problems.
5. Take a half spoonful of salt, stick out your tongue, drop the salt on it and hold it against the roof of you mouth.