Aging effects on oropharyngeal swallow and the role of dental care in oropharyngeal dysphagia.
Difficulty with oropharyngeal swallow requires careful diagnosis and treatment from a team of professionals including the patients' physicians and the speech-language pathologist specializing in dysphagia. The dentist can be a critical team member in prevention, early identification, and management of oropharyngeal dysphagia. This manuscript reviews the physiology of normal oropharyngeal swallow and the effects of normal aging on this physiology. Typical etiologies for oropharyngeal dysphagia are defined as is the most commonly used physiologic diagnostic procedure, the modified barium swallow (MBS). The critical role of the dentist in identifying risk of oropharyngeal dysphagia, making appropriate referrals, and improving oral hygiene to prevent aspiration pneumonia in the elderly is discussed.