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Peter Had a Gag Reflex

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Peter had gagged then vomited profusely in the dental chair as a teen, during an x-ray procedure, so had concluded that he should avoid that embarrassment again. He didn’t go to the dentist for almost 18 years but then developed a toothache. His medical history, paperwork filled out prior to the appointment, listed his concern about gagging four different times.

My goal is to make every patient comfortable, all the time, so I told Peter how I recognized his concern and kept him seated upright during my exam. I reminded him to take long breaths, and just let his lower jaw drop where it wanted. We took an x-ray of the tooth with a modern technique that didn’t require a large device in his mouth, and I used a different angle to view the tooth with my mouth mirror. He made it through the exam!

The x-ray revealed that his toothache was caused by an infection, which we had to get under control with antibiotics for several days. I offered to fix an additional cavity, toward the front of his mouth, which showed up on the x-ray. I knew that this would build his confidence in our practice and demonstrate that history wouldn’t repeat itself. Peter agreed. We proceeded, telling him what we were going to do before it happened, and giving him a few rests. He had absolutely no trouble during the procedure. This success set the stage for Peter to return with less anxiety for his next appointment, and increased the likelihood that he would have the tooth treated rather than face continual infections and then an extraction when the tooth was beyond hope.

Peter has been my patient, without vomiting, for 17 years.