Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center
Stages of the Swallow
There are four stages of a normal swallow.  When one or more of the stages show anatomical deviations or physiological disturbances that affect a normal swallow, dysphagia occurs.                                                           
  • Food is masticated (chewed)
  • Food mixes with saliva, forming a cohesive food ball, called a bolus
  • This stage can last up to 30 seconds depending on consistency of food to be masticated
  • The tongue and soft palate (roof of your mouth) squeeze together, moving the bolus posteriorly
  • This movement of the bolus in an anterior-posterior motion is often called lingual stripping. 
  • This stage should last only 1 - 2 seconds
  • The bolus enters the upper throat area and the soft palate elevates
  • The epiglottis descends as the larynx elevates, covering the airway
  • Tongue moves posteriorly and meets with the pharyngeal wall which has bulged forward
  • The elevation of the larynx pulls open a muscle at the top of the esophagus that allows the food to enter.
  • This stage should last only 1 second
  • The food enters the esophagus through the upper esophageal sphincter, and is transported to the stomach by the squeezing action of the esophageal muscles.