checklist for chewing problems in the elderly

Chewing and swallowing difficulties will impact 1 out of every 25 adults in the United States.

Luckily, there is a lot that can be done to help increase meal success, reduce the risk of choking, and support adequate calorie and protein intake for the elderly.

Here is a checklist for what you can do to help with common chewing and swallowing problems:

Work with a professional. A speech therapist is the best person to assess difficulties with chewing and swallowing and provide tips to help improve function.

  1. See your dentist. Sometimes poor fitting dentures or pain can be an underlying cause of chewing problems, a dentist can help address these concerns.
  2. Exercise chewing and swallowing muscles. Exercises can help improve function and re-stimulate swallowing reflex nerves. 
  3. Eat sitting up. Always eat while sitting at a 90 degree angle.
  4. Modify the texture of your diet. Chop food into smaller pieces or choose softer foods that are easier to swallow. Focus on selecting easy to chew foods for the elderly.
  5. Avoid foods that make you choke or gag. Thin liquids, tough meats or sticky foods, like nut butters can be problematic for some people.
  6. Chew your food thoroughly. Chewing is one of the best ways to help breakdown food so it can move smoothly through the digestive tract.
  7. Consider medical intervention. Surgery, esophageal dilation or certain medications can help improve swallowing issues.

With a few simple adjustments and working closely with a speech therapist, you can continue to enjoy your food and lower your risk of chewing or swallowing problems.


  1. Adult Dysphagia. Accessed September 8, 2021.


Ana Reisdorf, RD
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