Swallowing disorders, also called dysphagia (pronounced “dis-fay-juh”) can occur at different stages in the swallowing process:
Oral phase: sucking, chewing, and moving food or liquid into the throat
Pharyngeal phase: starting the swallowing reflex, squeezing food down the throat, and closing off the airway to prevent food or liquid from entering the airway (aspiration) or to prevent choking
Esophageal phase: relaxing and tightening the openings at the top and bottom of the feeding tube in the throat (esophagus) and squeezing food through the esophagus into the stomach
A speech-language pathologist (SLP) who specializes in swallowing disorders can evaluate individuals who are experiencing problems eating and drinking.
If feeding therapy with an SLP is recommended, the focus on intervention may include altering food textures and liquid thickness to ensure safe swallowing.