Pressure Point Device for Reduction of Hypersensitive Gag Reflex


The gag reflex regularly interferes with many medical procedures, more particularly, dental procedures. Most dental patients have suffered from the gag reflex when X-ray films or mold plaster is placed in the back of their mouth for a procedure. As most victims know, the impulse to gag is uncontrollable and makes some dental procedures intolerable. This stimulation of the gag reflex can be a stressful time for the patient and the dentist. It can lead to delay of treatment where, for example, the patient is not able to complete X-ray or crown fitting procedures. The fear of discomfort and embarrassment from gag reflex keeps many patients from receiving regular dental care. Still other patients are not even able to adequately perform proper oral hygiene due to gagging, even during tooth brushing.

The gag reflex protects the airway against the entrance of unwanted material and triggers the contraction of the superior laryngeal muscles. In general the neurologic pathway for the gag reflex response involves the glossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX) which sends projection fibers from the posterior one-third of the oral cavity to the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) of the medulla. Information from the NTS then sends signals to the nucleus ambiguous (NA), which activates the vagal (CN X) efferent fibers to produce the specific motor response. Despite this rudimentary understanding of the gag reflex response pathway, the specific neurologic underpinnings are poorly understood. Miami University researchers have developed a novel device that reduces gag reflex sensitivity utilizing mechanical pressure localized to a specific area of the body, potentially reducing discomfort and apprehension for certain oral cavity procedures.

PATENT STATUS: 8,808,324

INVENTORS: Donna Scarborough & Michael Bailey-Van Kuren