This patient presented with progressive eating difficulties, having been originally investigated for mechanical gastroenterological problems. Fruitless examinations led to referral to a tertiary oral medicine unit and a detailed review of his history, where the significance of progressive fatiguability during and after mastication became apparent in his dysphagia. The insidious onset contrasted with his more rapid decline in function between the initial examination and specialist electromyographic investigations, neurological admission and management. The dangers of fatigue and pharyngeal incompetence are of particular relevance to oral and maxillofacial clinicians. (C) 2008 The British Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.