Speech therapy in Wooster, OH, helps children, teens, and adults with difficulties in communication, language, voice/speech, and even swallowing. When the tongue, oral cavity, or throat are damaged or malformed, a highly qualified speech therapist can assist in regaining lost skills or in learning new ways to speak, swallow, and more. Here’s more on how speech therapy works.
What Is Dysphagia?
Dysphagia is the medical word for difficulty with swallowing. It may involve pain when swallowing foods or drinks, or it may be some degree of inability to swallow foods and drinks safely and efficiently. The problem may center on the oral cavity, throat (pharynx), esophagus, or even a combination of the three areas.
Dysphagia commonly starts with trauma to the face or throat, or in:
- Neurological disorders, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and others
- Muscular disorders, such as muscular dystrophy or esophageal spasms
- Gastrointestinal diseases, such as Barrett’s esophagus, GERD, or cancer
- Infections, such as strep throat or viral tonsilitis
How A Speech Therapist Can Help
Your speech therapist will review the symptoms that are bothering you currently. They will start by reviewing your medical history. Then, you will undergo some in-office assessments, including a swallowing test and possibly a barium swallow test. The barium swallow uses X-ray technology to image how your mouth and throat move and function as food or liquid passes down your oral cavity through the pharynx and into the esophagus.
Depending on your diagnosis and the reason for your swallowing difficulty, your care plan will include specific exercises to strengthen your oral and upper gastrointestinal muscles and/or to develop workaround solutions to assist in improving your ability to swallow safely and completely.
Common recommendations from speech therapists include:
- Specific tongue thrusting movements (lingual resistance) to strengthen tongue muscles
- Swallowing exercises to improve strength
- Use of removable palatal plates and other customized oral devices as needed to improve oral stimulation and coordination between lips and tongue
- Using thickeners to make swallowing liquids easier
- Taking smaller, more manageable bites of food or volumes of liquid
- Consuming both liquids and solids slowly
- Keeping good posture (90 degrees between chin and throat), including lifting the chin, when swallowing
- Clearing the throat if experiencing the sensation of food sticking in the throat
- Education on proper nutrition specific to the condition causing the dysphagia