Atypical Chewing and Swallow
Does it matter how we chew and swallow?
As long as it gets the food or liquid down, does it really matter how we chew and swallow? Well, there is a certain way that chewing and swallowing typically matures during the early years of life. This functional pattern is the most efficient method for eating and drinking.
Unfortunately, for various reasons, some people don't naturally progress to this functional method of chewing and swallowing.
These eating patterns can result in:
- An inefficient process. It may take longer than normal for an individual to eat. Or on the opposite end, the individual may eat extremely quickly, not be chewing properly or long enough. Swallowing food that is not broken down well can result in abdominal pain or constipation. They may take extra large bites, stuffing in too much food at once, or they may take bites that are too small. While there is only one right way to chew and swallow, there are a multitude of ways people stray from this.
- Incorporating air into the swallowing stage. This can cause stomach pain, gassiness, or burps.
- Picky eating. If the muscles aren't functioning properly during the eating process, certain textures or foods may be avoided. Most individuals don't recognize the underlying reason why they don't like a particular food. It may not be the food itself, but how the mouth or body deals with it. There may be an allergy or sensitivity to certain foods, but the person may not recognize the connection.
- Gagging or a feeling of choking. This can be influenced by various factors. In most cases, the functional and mature chewing and swallowing patterns are not being carried out correctly.
- Socially unacceptable or loud eating. The individual may chew with their lips apart.
- Pocketing of food. Food may stay in by the cheeks of the mouth longer than necessary.
- Inflammation of the jaw muscles. During an incorrect swallow pattern, the disc in the jaw can often be compressed and inflammation of the muscles can occur (in particular, the ptyergoid muscles). This inflammation can present as tension and/or pain.
During an assessment, the orofacial myologist will observe carefully how you chew and swallow, which will probably be recorded in a video. A full myofunctional therapy program will teach the proper swallow and eating patterns.