Gag Reflex: 4 Reasons Why You Want To Vomit When Brushing Teeth


The pharyngeal reflex or gag reflex is a protective mechanism of the human body that prevents the entrance of any unwanted material down the throat and prevent choking.

Everyone experiences gag reflexes at some point in their lives while with others it kicks in for very little reason. Some people experience the gag reflexes while feeding, brushing and drinking water.

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Brushing the teeth is an integral part of each day, just like taking meals. As a matter of fact, brushing doesn’t only save your life by preventing you from having more than just a couple cavities, it also prevents many serious diseases.

However, in the course of those 3 minutes brushing, most people usually feel like throwing up, especially in the morning.

We found some causes and decided to share.

  • Wrong brushing pattern

The gag reflex contraction is often evoked by touching the roof of the mouth, the back of the tongue, the area around the tonsils, or the back of the throat. When you bring the toothbrush too close to your soft palate, it triggers vomiting.

The size of the brush’s head is important, especially if you have a smaller mouth. Brushes also have various sizes of handles and different angles. But the most important part is the bristles that remove the bacteria.

According to dentists, soft bristles clean very effectively, more than the hard bristles. Always choose the right bristles and brush in a circular motion instead of back and forth.

  • Pregnancy

Change of hormones as a result of pregnancy strengthens the sensitivity of the gag reflex. So the reflex is part of the nausea of morning sickness pregnant women experience.

Pregnancy vomiting often gets worse when you are hungry so it can be useful to keep some snack food with you at all times. The production of more saliva than normal makes nausea worse.

  • Improper cleaning of the tongue

The tongue holds more bacteria than the rest of your mouth put together simply because of its large surface area and porous texture.

When you don’t clean your tongue often and properly, it triggers a gag reflex easily. While brushing your tongue may feel awkward or unpleasant at first, regular practice will improve your ability to taste, banish bad breath

This can be corrected by visiting your dentist and asking him about some correct brushing patterns. He or she can recommend ways to improve your tongue-washing technique and ensure optimum oral health. It is also ideal to use a tongue cleaner for faster result.

  • Dental depression or worries

Dental anxiety heightens the gag reflex, hence, the reason it needs to be controlled. People with traumatic past dental experience usually gag at the bathroom. Nobody is above depression and worries. They can catch one up anytime or at any age. Because most of the people don’t know if they are depressed or not, they don’t worry about a whole lot of things. But the good news is depression can still be cured by proper medication.

Nobody is above dental challenges. They can catch one up anytime or at any age. Because most of the people don’t know how to relax while brushing, they make a mess of the bathroom. Remember, dental depression can still be cured by proper medication.


  • Avoid mouth breathing, that increases the gag. If possible, gently brush your mouth without opening it.
  • Relax your muscles in your mouth and throat. If stomach acid goes up, dispose of your old toothpaste foam.
  • Do not go too deep while brushing.
  • Go for a softer bristle toothbrush.
  • Clean your tongue with mouthwash or tongue scrapers before brushing. A tongue scraper is a small tool made of plastic or metal that gently removes debris and plaque from the tongue. If using a scraper still triggers a gag reflex, try using a floss or washcloth.
  • When the pressure to gag comes, try humming. When you hum it sets the soft palate to moving.
  • Place a small amount of salt on your tongue. This does provide relief for the short term.
  • When drinking, use a straw and take smaller sips.

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Remember, not every technique yields the same results for each patient, so it’s important to try as many as possible and see which works best.