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Q: I am a 62-year-old male. About six years ago, I had all but four teeth removed. I have partials on the bottom and a full plate on top. At the time of my extractions, I talked to my dentist about my gag reflex and was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep my teeth in my mouth.
Well, I wore my top teeth for about 15 minutes the first day, and to this date I can only wear my bottom teeth for brief minutes at a time at dinner. I heard there is a procedure that would prevent me from gagging and would allow me to wear my dentures full time.
Because of this problem, I have only been able to smile and not laugh since my extractions. Is there a procedure to correct my gagging reflex?
A: First of all, please know I understand your frustration. There are a few things that come to mind for a patient such as you. However, I am not aware of any type of medical procedure to reduce the gag reflex. It could actually be dangerous if your gag reflex were eliminated completely.
I will forward this to Dr. Denis Grillo, another contributor to the Health & Life section of the Chronicle. Maybe he has an idea about how to help you.
Back to what can be done for you from your dentist: It is not uncommon for a dentist to make a set of dentures that impinge on the gag reflex to the point that gagging is a serious problem. There are ways this can be identified and corrected if the denture actually goes too far into the area of the gag reflex.
When I have had a patient who gags even after being sure the denture did not impinge on the gag area, I have made a denture with a metal palate shaped like a horseshoe. In doing this, there is no impingement on the area of the gag; however, you also lose the seal required to get suction.
These people have to use adhesive to hold their denture in. Unfortunately, even with the use of adhesives, they can have trouble with retention. That said, I have had success with this.
Lastly, you can have a few implants placed and use them for retention while making a denture with the same horseshoe shape I just discussed.
I hope this has given you some hope!
Dr. Frank Vascimini is a dentist practicing in Homosassa. Send your questions to 4805 S. Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa, FL 34446 or email them to him at info@MasterpieceDentalStudio.com.