Dysphagia is characterized by difficulty with swallowing.

The normal swallow is described in terms of four phases:

  1. Oral Preparatory: food or liquid is manipulated in the oral cavity, chewed if necessary, and made into a bolus which is held against the roof of the mouth
  2. Oral Phase: the tongue moves the food or liquid toward the back of the mouth
  3. Pharyngeal Phase: the swallow reflex is triggered and the bolus passes through the pharynx
  4. Esophageal Phase: the bolus travels through the esophagus into the stomach

Dysphagia may occur in any or all of the four phases.

Who can this affect?

Children may demonstrate dysphagia due to prematurity, developmental delay, craniofacial disorders, cerebral palsy, and other etiologies. Adults may demonstrate dysphagia following neurological injury (strokes, head injury), degenerative diseases (i.e. Parkinson's disease, Multiple Sclerosis), cancer, and other etiologies.

Evaluation services (informal)

  • in-depth history of the swallowing problem
  • oral mechanism function and sensitivity assessment
  • evaluation of trial swallows of food, liquid, and saliva

Therapy services

  • use of different postures during swallowing
  • use of swallowing maneuvers
  • sensory awareness training
  • varying food and liquid consistency to maximize swallowing function

Additional resources