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WE NEED SEVERAL things working together to be able to speak clearly. Speech disorders can result from impaired hearing, genetics, or a cleft palate, but another cause that can get overlooked is an orthodontic problem! Let’s take a look at how orthodontic treatment can overlap with speech pathology.

The Ways Malocclusions Can Impact Speech

“Malocclusion” is the formal name for a bad bite, where the upper and lower teeth don’t fit together properly when closing the jaws. Overbites are common causes of lisps and whistling while talking, as are gaps between teeth. Air can escape through the gap while trying to make sounds that require you to press your tongue against your teeth. Orthodontic treatment corrects these problems and makes it easier to speak clearly.

The Tongue Needs Space to Maneuver

In order to correctly form words and control the speed of our speech, our tongues need room to move. A small jaw or dental crowding can restrict the tongue’s movement, increasing the chances of a stutter or slurred speech. Braces correct these issues and give the tongue all the space it needs to form the correct sounds!

The Position of Our Teeth and the Sounds We Make

The English language contains several sounds that require our teeth to be correctly positioned in order to pronounce them. It’s difficult to say sounds like CH as in “chair,” SH as in “shape,” F as in “feet,” V as in “van,” J as in “jump,” S as in “soup,” the voiceless TH as in “think,” the voiced TH as in “the,” Z as in “zoom,” and ZH as in “treasure” with a bad bite, gaps, or crowding. Braces move the teeth into their proper positions, solving these pronunciation problems!

How Orthodontic Treatment Can Help

Not all speech disorders can be improved with orthodontic treatment, but anyone who struggles to make certain sounds due to malocclusions, crowding, or crooked teeth will likely see an improvement. Clearer speech isn’t the only benefit to straight teeth either — they’re easier to clean, they look great, and they even improve digestion.

Here is an exercise to try for improving a lisp:

Braces Improve Health and Confidence

It’s true that wearing braces can temporarily make it harder to speak clearly, which can be discouraging to someone already struggling with speech difficulties. However, after a short adjustment period, orthodontic patients learn how to speak around their braces, and the end results once the braces come off will be worth the effort! Give us a call if you want to learn more about how braces can help with speech impediments.

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Top image by Flickr user Jill Carlson (jillcarlson.org) used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.