What does swallowing mean? How does swallowing occur? Information about the swallowing movement.
SWALLOWING is the complex act for moving food or other substances from the mouth into the upper portion of the esophagus. When eating, swallowing begins as a voluntary act. At other times, swallowing is involuntary and may occur as often as two or three times a minote, even during sleep.
Swallowing is initiated by the contraction of the muscles of the cheek and tongue. This contraction forces the food from the front of the mouth toward the pharynx (throat). By means of a series of sequential muscular movements, the soft palate rises to close off the opening into the nasal cavities as the base of the tongue and faucial pillars (the two arches at the back of the mouth) propel the food into the throat. A squeezing action of the pharyngeal constrictor muscles then forces the food downward into the upper esophagus where a series of peristaltic waves carries it into the stomach. The epiglottis, a thin leaflike structure of cartilage, serves as a lid for the larynx (voicebox) so that food does not enter the larynx. Also during swallowing the opening of the larynx constricts, further preventing the entry of food.