Absent swallow reflex

When a person’s automatic swallow reflex—which normally kicks in when liquid or chewed food in the mouth reaches the base of the tongue—is entirely absent. In such cases, saliva, food, or liquid in the mouth can slip back to the base of the tongue and then downward to fill the lower part of the throat and flow into the airway without a swallow reflex ever being triggered. Such an individual should not be allowed to swallow by mouth, for fear of incurring aspiration pneumonia. He or she would require an alternate method of feeding, such as a gastrostomy tube. Compare this disorder with delayed swallow reflex.