Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, is a common medical condition among today's patients. It is estimated the approximately 15% of individuals older than 60 years experience dysphagia. Approximately 40% of institutionalized patients (i.e., patients residing in nursing homes, group homes, or assistive care facilities) have swallowing difficulties (Zagaria, 2005).
The swallowing mechanism is quite complex, involving more than 50 pairs of muscles. Impairment of any one or more of these muscles may result in a serious health risk to the patient. The patient may be at risk of aspirating food or saliva into the lungs, creating a potentially life-threatening medical condition.