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Oropharyngeal Dysphagia

(Difficulty Swallowing [Mouth and Pharynx])


Dysphagia is a problem with swallowing. Oropharyngeal dysphagia is a problem that involves the mouth and the pharynx. The pharynx is the part of the throat behind the mouth.

Mouth and Throat
Dry Mouth and Throat

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Oropharyngeal dysphagia may be caused by:

Risk Factors

Your chances of oropharyngeal dysphasia are higher for:

  • Having any of the problems listed above
  • Aging
  • Premature birth
  • Cancer treatment


Common problems:

  • Problems starting to swallow to move food or liquid from the mouth to the back of the throat—liquid may be harder to swallow than food
  • A feeling that food is stuck in the throat
  • Regurgitation
  • Drooling, coughing, choking
  • Problems getting enough fluids or nutrition


You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

You may have:

  • A test to look for problems while you swallow
  • An upper GI endoscopy —a scope is used to look at the structures from the back of the throat to the stomach
  • A barium swallow
  • Tests on the muscles of the esophagus (the tube that goes from the back of the throat to the stomach)


Treatment will depend on what's causing your problems. You may need to work with a specialist. They can teach you how to improve your swallowing. There are exercises and techniques that you can learn. You may need to change your diet. This may mean eating softer foods.


The best way to prevent oropharyngeal dysphagia is to treat what's causing it.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Dysphagia Research Society


Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada

Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologist


Dysphagia. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: Accessed August 13, 2018.

Dysphagia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated March 21, 2017. August 13, 2018.

Dysphagia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated April 2018. Accessed August 13, 2018.

Swallowing disorders in adults. American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: Accessed August 13, 2018.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD  Last Updated: 8/13/2018