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Swallowing Problems (Dysphagia) Specialist

Kids and Tummies

Pediatric Gastroenterologists located in Gulfport, MS & Ocean Springs, MS

If your child has difficulty chewing food or often gags while eating, they might have swallowing problems, which is called dysphagia. At Kids and Tummies, in Gulfport and Ocean Springs, Mississippi, the skilled pediatric gastroenterologists offer comprehensive diagnostic evaluations to identify the cause of your child’s swallowing issues. The team designs a treatment plan to resolve swallowing problems and ensure your child gets the nutrition they need to thrive. Call either office or book an appointment online today.

Swallowing Problems (Dysphagia) Q & A

What causes swallowing problems (dysphagia)?

Dysphagia describes feeding issues that result when your child can’t properly swallow liquids or solids. Swallowing is a complex process that involves the transfer of foods, liquids, and saliva from the mouth to the stomach without interfering with your child’s airways.

Swallowing disorders can occur in one or more of the four phases of swallowing, which include:

Oral preparatory

The oral preparatory phase is a voluntary phase where your child manipulates food or liquids in their mouth. This includes chewing solids and soft materials and sucking liquids.

Oral transit

During the oral transit phase, the tongue moves liquids and foods to initial swallowing.


The pharyngeal phase begins with the pharyngeal swallow reflex to move food through the pharynx. Contractions of the pharynx helps move food down to the esophagus.


The esophageal phase occurs when food moves through the esophagus and down into the stomach.

Dysfunction in any of these phases can allow food, liquids, or saliva to get into your child’s airways, which can cause choking and the backflow of materials into the nasal cavity.

What are the consequences of swallowing problems?

If your child is not able to swallow properly, it can lead to a wide variety of health consequences, including long-term complications. 

Some of the common side effects of persistent swallowing problems include:

  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Impaired growth
  • Aversion to food

Gastrointestinal complications like constipation and diarrhea can also occur because of swallowing problems.

Without proper treatment, swallowing problems can also lead to psychological issues like anxiety and depression that affect both your child and you as a parent.

How is dysphagia treated?

You should seek a medical evaluation at Kids and Tummies if your child has symptoms of a swallowing disorder, such as:

  • Choking
  • Gagging
  • Crying at mealtimes
  • Difficulty chewing foods
  • Breathing difficulties while eating

After a full medical evaluation, the Kids and Tummies providers create a custom treatment plan to meet your child’s needs and support their nutritional requirements.

Treating a swallowing disorder might involve changing your child’s diet to optimize nutrition. If they’re unable to drink or eat foods orally, your child might need a feeding tube to get the nutrients and fluids they need.

In some cases, dysphagia may require surgery to restore function of your child’s tongue, pharynx, or other structures that play a role in swallowing.

The pediatric gastroenterologist at Kids and Tummies discuss all available options with you to determine the best course of treatment for your child.

Find out more about treating swallowing problems (dysphagia) by calling the Kids and Tummies office nearest you or by booking an appointment online today.