There are several movements involved in chewing and swallowing food and fluid. In order to swallow safely, swallowing and breathing need to be well co-ordinated.
When we swallow, our jaw, lips, teeth, cheeks, tongue, and other structures are all working together in a co-ordinated movement.
Swallowing has three overlapping phases: oral preparatory, oral/pharyngeal, and oesophageal
1- The oral preparation phase: food enters and moves through the mouth
2- The oral/pharyngeal phase: swallowing starts, the food moves through the throat past the closed airway
3- The oesophageal phase: food moves down the food pipe to the stomach
We can control what we do in the ‘oral preparation’ phase, in our mouth. We cannot control what happens in the ‘oral/pharyngeal’ phase or the ‘oesophageal’ phase of the swallow.
We can only see parts of the oral preparatory phase; the other phases cannot be seen.
Even when you can no longer see the food in a person’s mouth, it does not mean the person has finished swallowing – the three phases of the swallow need to be complete. This is why it is important to check if a person has swallowed.