Chewing and Food Consistency: Effects on Bolus Transport and Swallow Initiation

Preswallow bolus formation usually occurs in the mouth for liquids and in the oropharynx for solid foods. We examined the effect of chewing on the relationship between bolus transport and swallow initiation. Fifteen healthy subjects were imaged with lateral projection videofluorography while eating liquids, solid foods, and a mixture of liquid and solid foods in upright and facedown postures. Videotapes were reviewed to measure the location of the leading edge of the barium at swallow initiation. Chewing and initial consistency each altered the relationship between food transport and swallow initiation. In particular, when chewing liquid (or consuming foods with both liquid and solid phases), a portion of the food commonly reached the hypopharynx well before swallow onset. This transport to the hypopharynx was highly dependent on gravity, but transport to the valleculae for chewed solid food was active, depending primarily on tongue-palate contact. Chewing appeared to reduce the effectiveness of the posterior tongue-palate seal, allowing oral contents to spill into the pharynx. Consuming two-phase foods with both solid and liquid phases may increase the risk of aspiration in dysphagic individuals with impaired airway protective reflexes.


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