If you’re a reader of our blog, you know that orthodontic treatment benefits our patients in many ways that may not be immediately obvious. Most people who seek orthodontic treatment focus on a crooked bite, crowded teeth, or a smile they are generally unhappy with. While we certainly love giving every one of our patients a smile they can’t wait to show off, there are other benefits to treating any issues with the bite.
One of those benefits is helping to solve issues a patient may have with their speech. Speech impairment is relatively common among children, and we see it frequently. Luckily, some simple orthodontic treatments can alter the anatomy and positioning of the tongue within the mouth, and these simple tweaks can make speech much easier and improve impaired speech. To learn more about how orthodontics can effectively address speech impediments, keep reading and find out how Dr. Laurie McNamara McClatchey and Dr. James A. McNamara at McNamara Orthodontics can help.
Treatment of Speech Impairment
Orthodontic treatment of a speech impairment differs from treatment by a speech pathologist primarily in that orthodontic treatment alters anatomy affecting speech patterns. Speech pathologists typically work with patients to create ways to effectively speak around anatomical irregularities. After an adjustment or the installation of a new appliance, there is a chance a speech issue may temporarily worsen as the body adjusts to the new sensations of an appliance in your mouth.
The most common malocclusion that warrants speech-related treatment are overbites and crossbites, though underbites and other common occlusion issues may result in speech issues depending on the patient and their age.
The Dental Anatomy of Speech
To produce sound, the tongue, palate, lips, and teeth all work and move together. So, it makes sense that speech would be affected if one part of this equation was missing. The teeth control the airflow into the mouth and throat, a very important part of creating sound and by extension, speaking. Malocclusion that results in the teeth being ineffective in regulating the airflow to the mouth during speech is most caused by an overbite and is the most frequent type of cause that orthodontists deal with.
Lisp, mispronunciation, and whistling sounds during speech can all be caused by unnatural airflow created by an overbite.
Tongue placement against the alveolar ridge (the space directly between the top front teeth) is essential to the pronunciation of t, s, d, l, n, and z. If the bite doesn’t allow for the tongue to connect with the alveolar ridge correctly, pronunciation of these five sounds is lost. This is another common occlusion issue that leads to speech impairment and is also treatable through orthodontics.
Alveolar sound is most commonly affected by a crossbite or an underbite.
Long-term speech solutions are not guaranteed by orthodontic treatment, but your orthodontist is skilled and well-equipped to help deal with these issues. Often, orthodontics can be the answer for these speech impediments. Cases that correct an underbite, overbite, or crossbite can work toward solving long-lasting speech issues.
Together with a pathologist or other doctor, if the issue fails to be resolved your orthodontist can prepare you for jaw or other orofacial surgery. This typically only happens in extreme circumstances.
If you have questions about your specific case and how we can help you, please contact our office and schedule an appointment. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have and work towards a beautiful smile and healing speech impairment.