The soft palate moves rhythmically during feeding, but the timing and frequency of this motion are not known. We tested the hypothesis that cyclic soft palate motion is temporally linked to cyclic jaw movement. Nine healthy, asymptomatic human subjects with normal dentition ate solid food coated with barium. Videofluorographic recordings showed that rhythmic motions of the soft palate during mastication were linked temporally to jaw motion. Soft palate motion occurred in every recording but not in every jaw cycle. The soft palate moved upward as the jaw opened, but the nasopharynx was not sealed. During swallowing, however, the soft palate invariably elevated during the intercuspal phase of jaw motion, sealing the nasopharynx. The frequency of soft palate cycles was lowest early in a feeding sequence and gradually increased as the sequence progressed from ingestion to swallowing. We conclude that cyclic movement of the soft palate in feeding is temporally linked to jaw motion.
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