What Is Gag Reflux?

Let us first understand what is gag reflux and how is it elicited.

Gag reflux is an involuntary contraction of the muscles of the pharyngeal wall in response of some trigger. The reflux is automatic (occurs without one’s control) and is perceived as choking.

The reflux is elicited when something touches the posterior pharyngeal wall, that is the back side of the throat.

The mechanism is protective in nature. It has been given as a defense to protect something unwanted from entering the wind pipe or the food pipe.

Some people may have a very sensitive gag reflux. It may get activated on mild stimuli, making it difficult to brush teeth or eat solid food. They need to be careful not to elicit it more often.

Preventing Activation of Gag Reflux During Brushing of Teeth

Following are a few simple tips that may be helpful to avoid gag reflux during brushing.

  • Open your mouth wide while brushing. Tell yourself that the reflux would not get activated unless you touch the back of your throat.
  • Replace your brush. Use a soft child toothbrush instead of those regular adult bristles.
  • Now start brushing from the inner most portion of the left lower jaw, working gradually from back to front. Spit and repeat for the right lower jaw.
  • Take a 2 minute break. Now, open your mouth wide again and brush your upper jaw, working from the inner most teeth to the outer ones.
  • If you feel you are getting the reflux, tightly clench your fist of the left hand. This is likely to prevent the reflux.
  • Spit more often during brushing. Do not allow lather to accumulate in the oral cavity.
  • Avoid brush touching your tongue and back side of the throat.
  • Keep your bathroom clean. Assure that the wash basin is clean and not smelly. The cleaner the surroundings, lesser are the chances of gag reflux.

Preventing Gag Reflux While Eating Food

  • Eat slow. Chewing the food properly before swallowing helps to prevent the reflux.
  • Include more of liquid/ semisolid food instead of solids. Soups, broths etc. have a consistency that is very unlikely to give gag reflux.
  • Avoid food at different temperature. If you are taking warm food, stick to it. Do not eat cold food at the same time. A time space of half an hour or more needs to be there before you take food at some other temperature.

Medical Advice (Q&As) on “Preventing Gag Reflux While Brushing

  1. Anonymous

    Hey doctor. Is it normal to have grooves on the roof of your mouth, like ridges and stuff you can feel with your tongue? I can’t see some little grooves on the roof of my mouth but my husbands is totally smooth.

  2. Anonymous

    Also, I have some teeny tiny little pinkish red dots on the roof of my mouth. They are not rough or painful or anything. I did eat some chips and salsa and I eat popcorn often. I’m on Bactrim for an ear infection. I emailed my regular doctor and he said that it is probably just petechiae? Is that okay? What can I do to make them go away?

  3. Anonymous

    HI Sir
    I am 27 year old .This problem started after 2012 .I have problem of extreme pressure near anus and above.i feel like waste material is come for evacuations.When i complete toilet visit it discharges lot gas and then sticky pus
    This happens more than 15 times a day .I had gastroscopy and colonoscopy
    Gastroscopy – Acute severe gastritis with erosion
    Colonoscopy Impression- Normal mucosa with multiple spasmodic contraction in Descending Colon and Sigmoid Colon suggestive of Motility Disorder.i was taking RABESEC-DSR,DOXY1,RIFINTRA400,ACTIHEP, but i found no solution to my problem ,Please guide

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      You are already taking the right medication given in such conditions. Give it time, before you see the effect.

      Meanwhile, diet and lifestyle amendments may be done. You need to take a light diet that is not spicy, less in fat and complex proteins. Avoid mushrooms, alcohol, smoking, smoked fishes and processed food stuff.

      Include plenty of fresh fruits and veggies in your diet. Drink lots of water.


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