Have a Sensitive Gag Reflex? How Your Dentist Can Help

anxious woman with fear of dentist before dental treatment

If you suffer from a sensitive gag reflex, the dental office may be your least favorite place to visit. An “overly sensitive” gag reflex affects many patients in varying degrees, and it can even cause patients to avoid professional dental care completely.

Regardless of whether you have a mild or severe gagging reflex, a qualified dentist can help you get the oral health care you need and deserve. At Peninsula Cosmetic & Family Dentistry, we proudly offer many services in painless dentistry to help you relax and ensure your gag reflex issues don’t hold you back.

Everyone has a gag reflex, which is medically termed the pharyngeal reflex. According to Healthline, this “is a contraction of the throat that happens when something touches the roof of your mouth, the back of your tongue or throat, or the area around your tonsils. This reflexive action helps to prevent choking and keeps us from swallowing potentially harmful substances. Unfortunately, some people have an overly sensitive gag reflex that is triggered by certain factors, such as swallowing pills or professional dental treatment.

A sensitive gag reflex can make routine dental cleanings a major source of dread. Gagging can be due to psychological factors or it can be an expression of panic, with a feeling that your ability to breathe is threatened. It can be so severe that even brushing your teeth can stimulate gagging.

A very mild gagging reflex may be soothed with a reminded focus to breathe through the nose, while a throat numbing spray or local anesthesia can be used for patients with a more moderate gag reflex condition. However, if you have a severe gag reflex or want to eliminate your discomfort altogether, you may choose sedation dentistry. At Peninsula Cosmetic & Family Dentistry, we have a dentist who is qualified to perform a full range of sedation dentistry options, including Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas), oral conscious sedation medications and even IV sedation. Many patients opt for this safe and effective treatment to help them fully relax while in the dental chair.

Your Comfort is Our Priority

To further ease your fears about gagging during dental treatments, we also utilize the latest technology in modern dentistry, such as the Lightwalker Laser and Dental Wand to provide more comfortable, faster and less invasive procedures for patients of all ages. You can trust that our friendly staff will take extra time to provide you with a calm environment so that your experience is both positive and rewarding. Don’t let your sensitive gag reflex or other anxieties about dental care keep you from seeing us. Call our Charleston dental clinic today to schedule your appointment.

Posted on behalf of Peninsula Cosmetic & Family Dentistry

538 Savannah Hwy
Charleston, SC 29407

Phone: (843) 507-5481

FAX: (843) 577-4653


Monday - Thursday 8am - 5pm
Lunch break: 1pm - 2pm

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Absolutely phenomenal dental office. Not only are the dentists outstanding at their craft but, like every person in the office, they are incredibly friendly and genuine. And that is so important. I earnestly recommend Peninsula if you are looking for the highest quality care, expertise and, equally important, quality people. I would give them 10 stars if I could.
Matthew W. L.
The BEST dentist. Megan the hygienist is always so professional and thorough! Every time I have a visit here the staff from the front desk to back are always so efficient and courteous. Dr. McPherson is an amazing dentist and always takes time to explain everything in a way that makes sense. I will only go to Peninsula for all my dental needs!
Dana M.
Excellent staff and excellent experience from entering until leaving. Dr. McPherson is terrific!! Her assistant Kate is very knowledgeable and caring. I felt like I had two dentist attending to me. This was my first visit to this practice. I’ll always remain a patient due to my experience
John C.

Meet Our Doctors

Dr. James B. Wisner

Dr. James B. Wisner was raised in Charleston and attended Porter-Gaud High School. He graduated from The Honors College at The University of South Carolina in 1996 and received his D.M.D. degree in 2002 from the Medical University of South Carolina’s College of Dental Medicine.

Dr. Wisner served in Las Vegas, Nevada and Spangdahlem, Germany as a Captain in the United States Air Force for three years where he completed an AEGD residency and was certified in Intravenous Conscious Sedation.

Dr. Caitlin McPherson

Dr. Caitlin McPherson was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. A graduate of Porter Gaud High School, she went on to receive her Bachelors of Science from Clemson University’s Calhoun Honors College. Dr. McPherson earned her Doctorate of Dental Medicine from the Medical University of South Carolina’s College of Dental Medicine. She is an active member of The American Dental Association and The Academy of General Dentistry.

Dr. McPherson performs all aspects of general dentistry and is Invisalign certified. Dr. McPherson especially enjoys treating pediatric patients.

Dr. Luke E. Severance

Dr. Luke E. Severance believes dentistry goes far beyond just treating teeth – it’s about building lasting relationships and making a genuine difference in the lives of his patients.

Dr. Severance was raised in Florence, South Carolina and graduated with summa cum laude from the University of South Carolina. He went on to receive his Doctorate of Dental Medicine from the Medical University of South Carolina and attended a General Practice Residency in Columbia, SC. At Prisma Health Richland Hospital in Columbia, he extended his knowledge and expertise in various areas from IV Moderate Sedation, Implant Surgery, CEREC Same-Day Crowns, Digital Dentistry, Pediatric Dentistry, Cosmetic Dentistry, and Extractions including Wisdom Teeth. He understands a dental visit can be fearful for some and his goal is to alleviate this fear by going above and beyond the need to help each person feel comfortable and cared for.

Outside the dental office, Dr. Severance enjoys spending time with his family and friends, fishing, hiking, playing soccer, watching the Gamecocks, and staying active in his church and community. Even in his free time, he studies the latest dental technology and attends dental seminars to stay up to date with the latest industry trends for delivering cutting edge dental treatments to all his patients. He is devoted to helping patients achieve optimal oral health and confident smiles which will positively impact their systemic and mental health.

Dr. Luke E. Severance


538 Savannah Hwy
Charleston, SC 29407

Phone (843) 507-5481
Fax (843) 577-4653

Opening Hours

Monday - Thursday 8am - 5pm
Lunch break: 1pm - 2pm

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