Treatment for dysphagia can come in several different forms, and may include surgery, a diet regimen, and dysphagia therapy.
Dysphagia therapy is conducted by certified speech-language pathologists and likely involves learning exercises and/or strategies for improved swallowing, as well as monitoring for improved swallowing as therapy continues, and adjusting therapy as necessary to address any noticeable changes.
The goal of dysphagia therapy is most often to help the patient learn to swallow more safely and effectively. Some patients in dysphagia therapy may be recommended restricted diets that specify what kinds (thickness/consistency) of foods and liquids they can swallow safely. Some patients may even be recommended that they nourish their bodies by non-oral methods. These non-oral methods frequently include devices called feeding tubes that allow people to feed without putting them in danger of choking or aspirating. Individuals on feeding tubes may benefit from therapy with the goal of increasing the safety of their swallow so that they might eat again by mouth one day.
Exercises include activities that aim to strengthen muscles, improve movement and improve coordination. Among the possible exercises that may be recommended for dysphagia patients are the Masako maneuver, the Shaker exercise, gargling, and others.
Strategies include postural changes (for example head turn and chin tuck postures), multiple swallows, and other "maneuvers". Remember that during the examination, the patient might be taught and asked to carry out different maneuvers. These are techniques that help to make the swallow safer or more effective. They include the supraglottic swallow maneuver, the super supraglottic swallow maneuver, the Mendelsohn maneuver, the effortful swallow maneuver, and others. Other strategies may involve the use of special implements, including the use of drinking cups for people with limited head motion and glossectomy spoons.
Diet modifications can include changes in food consistency, bolus size, and food/liquid temperature. Other modifications might include alternating solids and liquids.
An important and often overlooked aspect of dysphagia therapy is oral hygiene. Oral hygiene refers to promoting and preserving good oral (mouth) health. Oral hygiene is especially important for individuals with dysphagia because anything that is aspirated can carry traces of oral secretions (see Dysphagia: A Definition section). You may find oral hygiene tips here.
The Grabscheid Voice and Swallowing Center has expert speech language pathologists with specialized training in determining which therapy options are best for you.