*Last Updated: April 2024

Strategies for Improving Swallowing Safety: Expert-Approved Tips and Techniques

Eating is a joyous occasion for most, but what if swallowing has become a struggle? We get it. As we delved into the intricacies of dysphagia, we discovered that around 15 million Americans grapple with this problem yearly.

Our sweeping investigation on expert-recommended strategies will help you enhance your swallowing safety and enjoy meals again. Ready to reclaim your dining experience? Let’s dig in!


Key Takeaways

  • Follow diet recommendations: Stick to the recommended diet for individuals with swallowing difficulties, including modifications in texture, consistency, and temperature of foods and beverages.
  • Use compensatory strategies: Techniques like adjusting posture or breathing patterns can help compensate for swallowing difficulties and make eating and drinking safer.
  • Consider bite size: Taking smaller bites reduces the risk of choking or aspiration and makes swallowing easier.
  • Slow down when eating or drinking: Eating at a slower pace allows more time to chew food thoroughly and ensures safer swallowing.
  • Narrow your focus during meals: Concentrate on each bite or sip, avoiding distractions that can increase the risk of aspiration.
  • Use visual supports: Visual aids like pictures or diagrams can provide cues and reminders for proper swallowing techniques.
  • Make environmental modifications: Ensure good lighting, minimize distractions, sit upright during meals, use stable seating, and remove clutter from the eating space to reduce risks.
  • Modify equipment used for eating: Adapted utensils, straw usage, plate guards/scoop dishes, angled cups, non-slip mats can all help improve swallowing safety while eating.
  • Perform specific exercises and maneuvers recommended by professionals to strengthen muscles used in swallowing. Consult a healthcare professional for guidance tailored to individual needs.
  • Incorporate sensory stimulation into mealtimes by changing temperatures/flavors/textures of food or using textured utensils. Work with a healthcare professional to personalize these techniques effectively.
  • Follow personalized treatment plans from a swallowing specialist who can tailor interventions based on individual needs.

5 Expert-Approved Tips for Swallowing Safely

When it comes to swallowing safely, there are five expert-approved tips that can make a big difference. Here they are:.

1. Follow diet recommendations: It’s important to stick to the recommended diet for individuals with swallowing difficulties. This may include modifications in texture, consistency, and temperature of foods and beverages.

2. Use compensatory strategies: Certain techniques can help compensate for swallowing difficulties. These may include tilting your head forward slightly while swallowing or using a chin tuck maneuver to close off the airway during the swallow.

3. Consider bite size: Taking smaller bites can make swallowing easier and reduce the risk of choking or aspiration.

4. Slow down: Eating at a slower pace allows you more time to chew your food thoroughly and ensures safer swallowing.

5. Narrow your focus: Concentrate on each individual bite or sip, avoiding distractions like television or conversation which can increase the risk of aspiration.

By implementing these expert-approved tips into your daily routine, you can greatly improve your swallowing safety and enjoy

Follow diet recommendations

Eating the right foods helps swallow safety. We need to try soft and moist foods more often. They are simpler to swallow. Chewing slowly can make hard food softer too. Very hot or cold food might hurt, so watch out for that as well.

Keep dry and rough foods away since they’re harder to swallow. Let’s also cut our food into small bits before eating them for ease of swallowing.

Use compensatory strategies

We can improve swallowing safety by using compensatory strategies. These are techniques that help us eat and drink more safely. One example is changing our posture while eating or drinking to make it easier for the food or liquid to go down.

Another strategy is altering our breathing pattern, such as taking a breath before swallowing. We can also use tools like special cups or utensils that make swallowing safer. By incorporating these compensatory strategies into our daily routine, we can reduce the risk of choking or aspiration and enjoy eating and drinking with greater confidence.

Consider bite size

When it comes to improving swallowing safety, one important strategy is to consider bite size. Taking smaller bites can make it easier for individuals with swallowing difficulties to manage their food and reduce the risk of choking.

By cutting or tearing food into smaller pieces, it becomes more manageable to chew and swallow safely. This technique allows individuals to have better control over their movements while eating, reducing the chances of food getting stuck in the throat or causing discomfort.

So, next time you sit down for a meal, remember to take smaller bites for safer swallowing.

Slow down

We recommend slowing down when eating or drinking to improve swallowing safety. Eating too quickly can increase the risk of choking, especially for individuals with dysphagia. Take small bites and chew your food thoroughly before swallowing.

By slowing down, you give your muscles more time to coordinate and complete the swallowing process properly. This simple technique can help prevent any issues or incidents related to swallowing difficulties.

So remember, take your time and savor each bite for safer swallowing.

Narrow your focus

When it comes to improving swallowing safety, it’s important to narrow your focus. This means being selective with the types of foods and drinks you choose to consume. By narrowing your options, you can reduce the risk of choking and improve your overall swallowing experience.

So, instead of trying to eat a wide variety of foods, stick with those that are easier to swallow and have a smooth texture. It’s also helpful to avoid distractions while eating and concentrate on each bite or sip.

By narrowing your focus in this way, you can make safer choices for your oral intake and prevent potential swallowing difficulties.

Using Visual Supports for Swallowing Safety

Using visual supports can be a helpful strategy for improving swallowing safety. These visual aids can provide important cues and reminders to help individuals with dysphagia swallow safely.

For example, pictures or diagrams of proper swallowing techniques can serve as a visual guide during mealtime. These visuals can show the correct positioning of the head, neck, and mouth to ensure effective swallowing.

Additionally, labels or signs placed in the kitchen or dining area can remind individuals about specific dietary restrictions or recommendations. By using visual supports, individuals with dysphagia can have a clear and consistent reminder of safe eating techniques, helping to prevent choking incidents and enhance overall swallowing safety.

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Additional Strategies for Improving Swallowing Safety

To further improve swallowing safety, there are several additional strategies that can be implemented. These include making environmental modifications to reduce distractions and ensure a comfortable eating environment, modifying equipment such as using special utensils or plates designed for individuals with swallowing difficulties, performing specific swallowing exercises and maneuvers recommended by professionals, providing sensory stimulation to enhance the swallow reflex, and more.

By incorporating these additional strategies into a comprehensive plan, individuals can maximize their swallowing safety and minimize the risk of complications.

Environmental modifications

To promote safer swallowing, we can make some changes in the environment. Here are some expert-recommended environmental modifications:

  • Ensure good lighting in the eating area.
  • Minimize distractions while eating.
  • Sit in an upright position during meals.
  • Use a stable and supportive chair.
  • Remove clutter from the eating space to reduce the risk of accidental spills or falls.

Equipment modification

To improve swallowing safety, it can be helpful to make some modifications to the equipment you use while eating. Here are some expert-approved tips:

  1. Use specialized utensils: Adapted utensils with thicker handles or built-up grips can make it easier to hold and control while eating.
  2. Consider using a straw: Using a straw can help control the flow of liquid and reduce the risk of choking or aspiration.
  3. Use a plate guard or scoop dish: These tools can help prevent food from falling off the plate and make it easier to scoop food onto utensils.
  4. Try angled cups: Angled cups can make it easier to drink liquids without tipping your head back too far, reducing the risk of choking or aspiration.
  5. Use non-slip mats: Placing a non-slip mat under plates and bowls can prevent them from sliding around on the table, making it easier to eat safely.

Swallowing exercises and maneuvers

Improving swallowing safety can involve doing specific exercises and maneuvers. These techniques help to strengthen the muscles used in swallowing, making it easier and safer to swallow food and drink. Here are some exercises and maneuvers that can be helpful:

  1. Tongue exercises: Moving the tongue in different directions and sticking it out as far as possible helps to strengthen the tongue muscles involved in swallowing.
  2. Swallowing maneuvers: Certain movements can help facilitate the swallowing process. One example is the chin tuck maneuver, where you tuck your chin downward toward your chest while swallowing. This helps to close off the airway and prevent food or liquid from entering.
  3. Shaker exercise: Lie flat on your back and try to lift your head slightly off the ground while keeping your shoulders down. This exercise targets the muscles responsible for opening the upper esophageal sphincter, which is an important part of the swallowing process.
  4. Supraglottic swallow: This technique involves taking a deep breath, swallowing, and then coughing immediately afterward to clear any residue or leftover food from the throat.
  5. Mendelsohn maneuver: This maneuver involves holding your Adam’s apple (the prominent front part of your throat) up with two fingers while swallowing. By prolonging the elevation of the larynx during a swallow, it can improve overall swallowing function.

Sensory stimulation

Sensory stimulation is an effective technique for improving swallowing safety. Here are some ways to incorporate sensory stimulation into your eating routine:

  • Change the temperature: Eating foods at different temperatures can stimulate the senses and make swallowing easier. Try serving foods hot or cold to increase sensory awareness.
  • Vary flavors and textures: Including a variety of flavors and textures in your meals can enhance sensory stimulation. Experiment with different tastes and consistencies to keep your senses engaged.
  • Use seasonings and spices: Adding herbs, spices, and seasonings to your food can provide additional sensory stimulation. Not only will it make your meals more enjoyable, but it can also help improve swallowing function.
  • Try different utensils: Using different utensils, such as textured spoons or forks, can provide extra sensory input during mealtimes. These tools can help stimulate the mouth muscles and improve swallowing coordination.

Dysphagia Treatment Options

There are various treatment options available for dysphagia, including diet modifications, oral hygiene practices, support for respiratory health, biofeedback techniques, electrical stimulation, and other options like prosthesis placement or surgery.

Diet modifications

To improve swallowing safety, we can make some changes to our diet. Here are some expert-approved diet modifications:

  1. Eat softer foods: Opt for foods that are easier to chew and swallow, like cooked vegetables, tender meats, and mashed potatoes.
  2. Avoid dry foods: Dry foods can be harder to swallow, so try adding sauces, gravies, or broths to moisten them.
  3. Cut food into smaller pieces: Cutting food into smaller bites makes it easier to manage in your mouth and reduces the risk of choking.
  4. Minimize tough textures: Stay away from tough or stringy meats that require more chewing. Choose softer options like ground meat or fish instead.
  5. Adjust temperature: Be mindful of hot foods and drinks as they can increase the risk of injury if swallowed too quickly. Allow them to cool down slightly before consuming.

Oral hygiene for dysphagia

Maintaining good oral hygiene is important for people with dysphagia. Here are some tips for taking care of your mouth:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Use toothpaste that contains fluoride to help prevent tooth decay.
  • If you have difficulty holding a regular toothbrush, try using an electric toothbrush or a modified handle.
  • Rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash after eating to remove any food particles and reduce the risk of infection.
  • Clean your tongue using a tongue scraper or soft toothbrush to remove bacteria and improve breath freshness.
  • Be gentle when brushing, as aggressive brushing may cause irritation or bleeding.
  • If you wear dentures, clean them thoroughly after meals and before bed. Soak them overnight in a denture cleaning solution.

Support respiratory health

One important aspect of improving swallowing safety is to support respiratory health. This can be done by:

  • Practicing deep breathing exercises regularly.
  • Maintaining good posture while eating to ensure proper alignment of the airways.
  • Avoiding talking or laughing while eating, as it can increase the risk of choking.
  • Clearing the throat before swallowing to ensure that no food particles are blocking the airway.
  • Seeking medical advice if you experience symptoms such as coughing or wheezing during or after eating.


Biofeedback is a technique that can help improve swallowing safety. It involves using visual or auditory cues to provide real-time feedback on muscle movements and coordination during the swallowing process.

This feedback helps individuals become more aware of their swallowing patterns and make adjustments as needed. For example, ultrasound observation can be used to monitor tongue movement and ensure it is properly aligned for safe swallowing.

Biofeedback can be an effective tool in dysphagia treatment plans, along with other strategies like diet modifications and swallowing exercises.

Electrical stimulation

Electrical stimulation is a technique that can be used to improve swallowing function. It involves using small electrical currents to stimulate the muscles involved in swallowing. This helps to strengthen these muscles and improve their coordination.

Electrical stimulation can be applied externally or internally, depending on the specific needs of the individual. Research has shown that electrical stimulation can be an effective treatment option for improving swallowing safety in individuals with dysphagia.

It is important to work with a healthcare professional who specializes in swallowing disorders to determine if electrical stimulation is appropriate and safe for you or your loved one.

Other treatment options (prosthesis, medications, surgery, tube feeding, etc.)

There are other treatment options available for improving swallowing safety. These options include:

  • Prosthesis: A prosthesis is a device that can be used to help improve swallowing function. It may be recommended for individuals with severe swallowing difficulties.
  • Medications: In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help manage underlying conditions that contribute to dysphagia or to alleviate symptoms.
  • Surgery: In certain situations, surgery may be an option to address structural abnormalities or blockages in the throat or esophagus that affect swallowing.
  • Tube feeding: Tube feeding involves delivering nutrition and fluids directly into the stomach through a tube. This option may be necessary for individuals who are unable to safely swallow and maintain adequate nutrition orally.


In conclusion, improving swallowing safety can be achieved by following expert-approved tips and techniques. By adhering to diet recommendations, using compensatory strategies, considering bite size, slowing down, and narrowing our focus, we can make eating safer.

Additionally, visual supports and other strategies like environmental modifications and swallowing exercises can further enhance swallowing safety. It’s important to remember that personalized treatment plans from a swallowing specialist are crucial in managing dysphagia effectively.


1. Why is swallowing safety important?

Swallowing safety is important because it ensures that food and liquids go down the correct way, preventing choking and aspiration pneumonia.

2. What are some expert-approved tips for improving swallowing safety?

Some expert-approved tips for improving swallowing safety include taking smaller bites or sips, eating slowly, maintaining an upright posture while eating, and avoiding distractions during meals.

3. Can certain techniques help improve swallowing safety?

Yes, certain techniques such as chin tucks (tucking your chin towards your chest) while swallowing can help improve swallowing safety by closing off the airway and directing food toward the esophagus.

4. Is there any specific diet recommended for individuals with swallowing difficulties?

Yes, a modified texture diet may be recommended for individuals with swallowing difficulties. This diet involves modifying the texture of foods to make them easier to swallow, such as pureeing or thickening liquids.

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