The effects of oral-motor exercises on swallowing in children: an evidence-based systematic review


  • UK usage: learning disability.

Tracy Schooling, at the National Center for Evidence-based Practice in Communication Disorders, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2200 Research Boulevard #245, Rockville, MD 20850-3289, USA. E-mail:


Aim  The aim of this unregistered evidence-based systematic review was to determine the state and quality of evidence on the effects of oral motor exercises (OME) on swallowing physiology, pulmonary health, functional swallowing outcomes, and drooling management in children with swallowing disorders.

Method  A systematic search of 20 electronic databases was completed to identify relevant peer-reviewed literature published in English between 1960 and 2007. Experimental or quasi-experimental design studies examining OME as a treatment for children with swallowing disorders were appraised for methodological quality by two assessors and reviewed by a third.

Results  Sixteen studies of varying methodological quality were included. No study examining the effects of OME on pulmonary health in children was identified. The included studies incorporated a wide variety of OME, and mixed findings were noted across all of the outcomes targeted in this review.

Interpretation  Based on the results of this evidence-based systematic review, there is insufficient evidence to determine the effects of OME on children with oral sensorimotor deficits and swallowing problems. Well-designed studies are needed to provide clinicians with evidence that can be incorporated into the preferences of the client and the clinicians’ knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and neurodevelopment in the management of this group of children.