- Often times the swallowing problem is caused by eating too fast or not chewing your food
- Swallowing happens in three stages and involves 50 pairs of muscles and various nerves
- It’s important to keep your teeth and gums healthy so they can prepare your food for swallowing
Difficulty swallowing or the feeling of having something stuck in your throat is known as dysphagia. Often times a swallowing problem is caused by eating too fast or not chewing your food adequately. In these cases, you don’t need to worry. However, if your dysphagia is something that happens often and persists, it may be a symptom of a bigger medical issue.
Swallowing happens in three stages and involves 50 pairs of muscles and various nerves. Swallowing smoothly and without pain is important because swallowing is critical to eating and allows you to gain the nutrients you need to live. If you experience trouble swallowing, you should speak with your dentist or other health professional.
Causes of Dysphagia
Dysphagia mostly affects older patients. However, dysphagia can affect anyone at any age. Dysphagia is associated with illnesses such as cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, strokes, and some head injuries. Muscular dystrophy, open heart surgery in infants, both benign or cancerous tumors, and gastroesophageal reflux disease can result in dysphagia, too.
Other more minor issues that can affect your ability to swallow include alcohol consumption, smoking, taking certain medications, and wearing dentures.
Symptoms of Dysphagia
There are two common types of dysphagia. The first is known as oropharyngeal dysphagia. It is characterized by the inability to move food from your mouth to your esophagus. Common symptoms include drooling, choking, coughing and gagging. Liquids may come back up through your nose and often your voice becomes weaker. You may even experience weight loss due to the reduction of nutrients reaching your body’s various systems.
The other type of dysphagia is esophageal dysphagia. This is when food has trouble moving from your esophagus into your stomach. This often results in pain and feeling like food is stuck in your throat. Other symptoms include chronic heartburn, a sore throat, excessive belching, and even pain in your chest.
For oropharyngeal dysphagia, the most common treatment is speech therapy. A speech therapist can help you learn how to coordinate your muscles to swallow more smoothly. They will also teach you different head positions that can help make swallowing a little easier.
If you suffer from esophageal dysphagia caused by tumors, you will likely need surgery to remove the tumors. If your esophageal dysphagia is a complication resulting from acid reflux, you may be able to take certain medications to treat the problem. Another option, depending on the cause of your dysphagia, is corticosteroids, which can help relax the esophageal muscles for better swallowing.
Your mouth is an important part of the eating process. Swallowing safely and smoothly often depends on how well you chew your food. It’s important to keep your teeth and gums healthy so that they can prepare your food for swallowing. Make sure you brush twice a day and floss daily. Visit your dentist for regular checkups and speak to them if you suspect you have any dental issues or swallowing problems.