Posted on: 17 April 2017Share
The tongue's surface can harbour plenty of bacteria, so it's important to use a tongue scraper to keep it clean. Unfortunately, many people start gagging when they attempt to do so. Here are just five ways to help prevent hitting that gag reflex.
1. Open Wide and Extend Your Tongue
The first thing you need to do is ensure the mouth is open wide with the tongue fully extended. It can be easy to let your mouth fall slightly closed as you attend to your tongue, especially since many people choose to use their tongue scraper after brushing and flossing, when the jaw is already quite tired. However, you want to keep the scraper from hitting the back of your mouth, so open as wide as you comfortably can and stick out your tongue.
2. Keep Breathing
Some people naturally hold their breath when they are brushing their teeth or scraping their tongue, but this will only increase anxiety and make it much harder for your body to control the gag reflex; after all, a disruption in your intake of oxygen is just what the gag reflex is meant to avoid.
3. Don't Go Too Far Back
Sometimes people start gagging while they are brushing their tongue because of an oversensitive gag reflex, but many others will simply be going too far back. You don't want to hit the tonsillar tissue; this is unnecessary, can cause irritation, and is likely to initiate the gag reflex. The surface of the tongue that you need to scrape clean is relatively smooth. If you feel any bumps, you've gone back too far.
4. Form a Fist
It might sound odd, but many people find that forming a fist with their left hand, with the thumb squeezed inside, helps prevent the gagging reflex. The jury is out on why this might be, but one 2008 study shows forming such a fist to be an effective step, so it's always worth a shot.
5. Develop a Tolerance
The gag reflex is inbuilt, but it's something that you can learn to overcome. Even if you have a very strong gag reflex right now, you should be able to slowly desensitize yourself over time to help correct the problem. As you use your tongue scraper, start closer and closer to the back portion of the tongue. When you feel yourself begin to gag, help your body prevent the reaction by stopping any motion and waiting for the instinct to pass. By repeating this process each day, you should find yourself less likely to gag as you scrape along the tongue's surface.
Contact a local dentist for more information.