The structures involved with the process of swallowing include the tongue, teeth, epiglottis, and esophagus.
The teeth are used to grind and chop up food into tiny pieces, while the glands in the mouth moisten the food with saliva. In the first stage of swallowing, the tongue pushes the food into the throat. In the second stage of swallowing, an important small flap of tissue called the epiglottis, folds over the voice box (larynx) at the entrance to the windpipe (trachea), preventing food from going down the wrong way. In the final stage, the esophagus contracts and moves food toward the stomach.
Update Date 10/13/2013
Updated by: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.