Age-related Differences in Tongue-Palate Pressures for Strength and Swallowing Tasks

Fei T, Polacco RC, Hori SE, Molfenter SM, Peladeau-Pigeon M, Tsang C, Steele CM.

Dysphagia. 2013 May 16.


The tongue plays a key role in the generation of pressures for transporting liquids and foods through the mouth in swallowing. Recent studies suggest that there is an age-related decline in tongue strength in healthy adults. However, whether age-related changes occur in tongue pressures generated for the purpose of swallowing remains unclear. Prior literature in this regard does not clearly explore the influence of task on apparent age-related differences in tongue pressure amplitudes. Furthermore, differences attributable to variations across individuals in strength, independent of age, have not clearly been elucidated. In this study, our goal was to clarify whether older adults have reduced tonguepalate pressures during maximum isometric, saliva swallowing, and water swallowing tasks, while controlling for individual variations in strength. Data were collected from 40 healthy younger adults (under age 40) and 38 healthy mature adults (over age 60). As a group, the mature participants had significantly lower maximum isometric pressures (MIPs). Swallowing pressures differed significantly by task, with higher pressures seen in saliva swallows than in water swallows. Age-group differences were not seen in swallowing pressures. Consideration of MIP as a covariate in the analysis of swallowing pressures revealed significant correlations between strength and swallowing pressures in the older participant group. Age-group differences were evident only when strength was considered in the model, suggesting that apparent age-related differences are, in fact, explained by differences in strength, which tends to be lower in healthy older adults. Our results show no evidence of independent differences in swallowing pressures attributable to age.


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