How To Stop Gagging When Wearing Retainers?

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For some of us, the part of the retainer that sits on the roof of our mouth can be very uncomfortable. After you start wearing retainers, it takes anywhere from 4-6 months for it to start showing effects and maintain the alignment of your teeth. Gagging while wearing retainers is pretty common and nothing to be embarrassed about. About 1/3rd of the population does not have a gag reflex. For the rest of us, gagging can make life miserable sometimes. Someone with a strong gag reflex can gag or dry heave just by looking at something. In this article, we will learn why gagging occurs when wearing retainers and how to manage it.

Orthodontists say, after getting your braces removed, the first 3 months are crucial as the teeth are getting used to new positions in your mouth.

In this period, it is crucial to get used to the feeling of having retainers. However, it’s equally vital to reduce its discomfort like gagging, to get the maximum benefits.

Gagging is a reflex that protects your body. You don’t need to feel like something is wrong with you if you gag intensely.

It’s just your innate reflexes not allowing any food or foreign objects down your pharynx (windpipe), which could be harmful to you.

Gagging when wearing retainers? Is it normal?

It is normal to gag when wearing retainers. If the palate of your retainer on the top is too big, that too can invoke your gag reflex.

Gagging has two main components: the reflex and the other is the psychological or mental component.

Both components are equally vital to control your gag.

Have you ever experienced a gag coming on when you look at something or smell something that stimulates it? It’s because your mind can turn on and turn off the gag reflex.

The good news is you can control or reduce the mental and reflex components of this sensation.

Managing your gag reflex

1. Distraction

When you wear your retainers, think of something other than what is happening. Go to your happy place.

Listen to music or watch TV. If you want, you can even pinch yourself to distract your mind from the gag sensation.

2. Salt

Putting salt on the tongue can help you with gagging. It’s not clear why this is helpful, but it’s worth a try, and there is nothing to lose. 

3. Sitting up and breathing

Closing your eyes, sitting up, and taking deep breaths through your nose will relax you. If you panic about the idea of wearing retainers, it will make it even worse.

Sitting up will prevent you from choking on your saliva and, it also seems to calm people down.

4. Communicate your feelings

When you experience gagging with retainers, communicate this to someone. Tell them about your problem, fears, or past experiences it helps to overcome the fear and calms your fears.

5. Throat numbing spray

An over-the-counter throat numbing spray can alleviate your gag reflex.

Using 2-3 sprays before putting on retainers can cause the effect to last for about an hour.

6. Snore relief spray

Even though this spray is made for gag relief, most people with sensitive gag reflexes respond well to this spray. This is because it reduces your gag reflex considerably.

7. Acupuncture

Some studies have shown that acupuncture alleviates gagging. Try acupuncture to help you with your gag while wearing retainers.

8. Fold your thumb

One study shows that when you fold your left thumb into the palm of your hand and squeeze your thumb, it can make your gag reflex disappear.

9. TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)

Stimulating the laryngeal nerve with a TENS machine could block the response of gagging and retching in sensitive individuals.

10. Desensitizing

This is probably the most effective method to overcome your gag reflex for good. When you are done brushing at night, gently probe the back of your mouth with your toothbrush.

At the same time, control the urge to gag. If you feel intense gagging, you must stop for the time being and repeat this every night. As you keep doing this every day, advance the toothbrush a little further back in your mouth.

This method works if you are willing to put in the effort and practice.

Retainers: How do they work?

A young woman is holding up her retainer.

retainer keeps your teeth in place after they have straightened with braces.

If you feel gagging when wearing retainers, develop an aversion to them, and stop wearing them, it can cause a relapse.

A relapse occurs when your teeth shift back to the old position that you had before your treatment started. It can happen in a couple of weeks or months.

Your teeth will try to move back to their original position if you don’t use retainers.

In this period, retainers help to prevent the shifting back of your teeth.

It takes 4-6 months for the new alignments of your teeth to become permanent. This maintenance of alignment is called retention.

Retainers can be very annoying to some and can cause gagging in others. But when compared to going through wearing braces all over again, it is a tiny inconvenience.

Types of retainers

There are 2 types of retainers: removable and permanent.

Your orthodontist will help you choose the type that is best for you. The type you will need is based on why you need braces and any other condition you may have.

You can have either type of retainer for your teeth. You may receive a removable one for the top teeth and a fixed one for the bottom teeth.


What causes an exaggerated gag reflex?

A gag reflex is caused by sensory stimulation and can exaggerate in the following situations:

– If you have an obstructed nose
– You smoke a lot
– You have gastrointestinal problems 
– Your dentures are too big
– Retainers irritate your mouth and
– The shape of your soft palate is different

Is it possible to choke on retainers?

A dislodged retainer can cause choking sometimes. During eating and activities like sports and swimming it is best to put your retainer in its case.

Your orthodontist will determine when you should remove your retainer.


Retainers are a critical part of your orthodontic treatment. If you don’t wear retainers, you may see your beautiful smile disappear slowly.

Retainers are considered a part of your braces treatment and help you preserve your investment in orthodontic treatment.

Gagging is a normal response, don’t let it discourage you from wearing retainers and getting the maximum benefits after removing your braces.

Following the tips mentioned in this article can help you with your gag reflex considerably. With this, you can wear your retainers comfortably and achieve your ideal smile.

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