The Complex Process of the Swallow

If you’ve read our blog before, you’re familiar with the frustrating nature of dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing.

But the fact is, swallowing is a complex physical process, and as such, many things can go wrong. That’s why it’s important to have professionals diagnose and prepare a treatment plan.

In today’s post, we’ll break down the steps of the swallow. Be sure to check out this article on Provider for more details.

When we think of the swallow, we sometimes think of it as a fluid, continuous process. But what we think of as swallowing actually contains four distinct phases: the Oral Preparatory phase, the Oral phase, the Pharyngeal phase and the Esophageal phase.

The Oral Preparatory phase takes place when food first enters the mouth. To keep food in the mouth, the lips must possess appropriate strength. The tongue and jaw work together to hold the food in place until the next phase begins.

The Oral phase is the tongue’s time to shine. It begins anterior and posterior movement, pushing food to the back of the throat. The back of the tongue rises as food begins its trip down into the pharynx.

The Pharyngeal phase begins with the soft palate rising to meet the posterior pharyngeal wall and the larynx rising towards the base of the tongue. Openings to the trachea and larynx are covered by passive movement, and the muscles of the pharynx contract to bring the food towards the muscles at the top of the food tube (the cricopharyngeal sphincter).

The Esophageal phase involves — you guessed it — the esophagus. The cricopharyngeus muscle relaxes, allowing the food to pass into the esophagus. A quick wavelike contraction of the muscles in the esophagus pushes food down towards the stomach.

By understanding the phases of the swallow, it’s easier to see how a number of things could cause problems during it, resulting in dysphagia. If you or a loved one have difficulty swallowing, oropharyngeal strengthening with the SwallowSTRONG may be able to help.

Check out more information about Swallow Solutions here.

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