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Char Boshart, M.A., CCC-SLP

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          Three Secrets of a GREAT Swallow

Swallowing is one of three oral functions that we all do:  swallowing, chewing, and speaking.  They all use the mouth and the same mouth-parts, but they’re very different. 

There are three secrets to doing a good, unharmful swallow--one that doesn't hurt your teeth.  Most people don't know these.  YOU'LL KNOW.... 

First, all oral functions are based on two things:  stabilization and mobilization.  

For example, it’s rather like writing.  You hold the pencil in your hand with your fingers.  As you write, the edge of your hand anchors (stabilizes) to the table, and your fingers move the pencil.  For oral functions, there is always a mouth-part that anchors and another mouth-part that moves.  Stabilization assists the moving part to move with control.  You’ll find out in therapy which mouth-parts do which. 

The second secret is intra-oral suctioning.  Intra-oral suction (suction inside the mouth) only happens when you do a swallow.  Actually suction happens just prior to the swallow.  Suction moves the contents--liquid, food, and saliva--to the tongue that stays in the middle of the mouth to receive the contents.  It plays a major role in helping to stabilize and mobilize mouth-parts for the swallow.  Most people who do a tongue thrust swallow gather their food and liquid incorrectly. 

Third, do know, there is a definite swallowing sequence.  You’ll learn all about the sequence and how to do it during your therapy time.  Always remember to do the four parts of the swallow.  Here they are: 

  • Suction (moves the contents to the tongue; the tongue receives),
  • Bite (jaw closes, teeth stabilize to support the tongue),
  • Squeeze Up (front-tongue elevates/mobilizes and applies pressure, and moves the contents back to the back), and
  • Lift (back-tongue elevates and applies mild to moderate pressure, and helps to move the contents down).

One swallow takes mere moments.  It almost seems that Suction: Bite-Squeeze-Lift happen at the same time.  They don’t.  At first, you’ll do them slowly to make sure each part is included.   

Eventually as your mouth learns the sequence, your swallow will happen quickly and naturally.  You’ll have appropriate stabilization and mobilization, intra-oral suction that works efficiently, and a swallow that looks good, feels good, and doesn’t harm your teeth. 

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