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This side view of the head highlights structures involved with swallowing. That includes the tongue, teeth, epiglottis, and esophagus.

The teeth grind and chop food into tiny pieces while the glands in the mouth moisten it with saliva.

Then the tongue pushes the moistened food, or bolus, to the back of the throat and down into the esophagus, which leads to the stomach.

Let's watch the swallowing process again.

First, the tongue pushes the food into the throat.

Next, the epiglottis, a small but important flap of tissue, folds over the voice box at the top of the windpipe. This keeps food from going down the wrong way.

Finally, the esophagus contracts and moves food toward the stomach.

Burp! Excuse me.

Review Date 8/7/2023

Updated by: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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