When most people think of braces, they think of correcting crooked teeth, avoiding bubblegum, and perfect smile results. One of the most common complaints patients have after they get their braces is that they have a hard time adjusting to how the braces make them sound when they talk. However, as your mouth becomes accustomed to the brackets and wires, your speech will return to normal fairly quickly.
But what about those who have speech problems before their braces? While braces are instrumental for straightening teeth and correcting bites, they can also help resolve certain speech problems caused by jaw misalignment or other malocclusions.
How Orthodontic Issues Cause Speech Problems
Since certain sounds are made by the way your tongue hits your teeth, the alignment of your smile is important. In order to speak properly, your tongue should hit the roof of your mouth during speech - creating a tight seal.
At its core, your mouth is an instrument. When something is formed or shaped improperly in the instrument, the sounds come out incorrectly. When you have a misaligned jaw or teeth, your speech can be altered as air can escape through these openings, causing the tongue to improperly hit the roof of your mouth. Orthodontic treatment, like braces, can help restore your mouth to the proper form, allowing your speech to come out in the correct way.
While some speech problems are caused by genetics or other issues, some are directly correlated to your smile. The most common orthodontic issues that cause speech problems include:
- Overjet bite
- Excessive spacing
- Open bite
- Overcrowded teeth
Common Speech Problems Braces Can Fix
Braces can help solve a variety of speech problems by aligning jaws and teeth to allow speech to flow correctly. Your orthodontist will be able to determine if your speech problem can be solved with braces. Here are some of the most common speech problems fixed or improved by braces.
Lisps are common among children and adults with an open bite, which is often caused by thumb-sucking. A lisp occurs when the tongue doesn’t make a solid connection with the roof of the mouth when pronouncing words containing the letter “s” or “z”. People who have a lisp often pronounce words with “s” or “z” as if they have the letters “th” instead. While we don’t promise that fixing your bite will improve speech problems at Laster Orthodontics we have treated many patients whose speech problems were improved by better alignment of the teeth and a properly fitting bite.
Other Consonant Articulation Difficulties
In addition to a lisp, open bite can also cause difficulty with other consonants, particularly when pronouncing “d” and “t”. Overcrowding, underbites, and crossbites can also cause consonant articulation difficulties. The better the alignment of the teeth the more evenly the tongue hits them during pronunciation.
Whistling during speech occurs when there is excessive tooth spacing, allowing air to be forced through teeth during speech. This can be the result of teeth growing improperly naturally, or from dental work like crowns or veneers, that can alter teeth spacing.
How Braces Can Help Treat Speech Problems
Braces can be used to treat speech problems by eliminating gaps caused by improper tooth or jaw alignment. This allows the tongue to make a solid connection to the roof of their mouth, and for speech to flow correctly. This helps patients formulate even the most complex sounds and words without slurring, whistling, or pronouncing with a lisp.
Braces may not be the first treatment action that comes to mind, and it certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for all speech problems. Your specific orthodontic needs, age, and other factors play into how your orthodontist will help treat your speech problem. Orthodontists will often recommend the addition of the following appliances or procedures in conjunction with braces to provide the best result:
- Headgear - When braces alone are not sufficient to correct a jaw misalignment, headgear that is worn overnight may be advised to correct the problem.
- Upper Jaw Expander - A wire frame that expands the upper palate at night while wearers sleep, often used to treat severe underbite cases. An expander widens the palate and gives the tongue more room in the oral cavity. This can help with speech and sleep apnea problems
- Reverse Pull Headgear - Also worn overnight, this appliance pulls the upper jaw back with a device similar to regular headgear.
- Jaw Surgery - Surgery is a last resort measure in some cases and not generally recommended unless the misalignment significantly interferes with your ability to eat, sleep, and speak.
If you or your child suffer from a speech problem, you should consult with an orthodontist to see if your smile is the cause. Your orthodontist will be able to determine the best treatment plan for you to not only give you a perfect smile, but the gift of perfect speech. At Laster Orthodontics we can give you a perfect smile, and also help you sound great if you have a speech problem that is correctable with orthodontic treatment.
At Laster Orthodontics, we help families develop healthy, life-changing smiles using customized treatments, cutting-edge technologies, and caring relationships. Our individualized treatment plans help our patients achieve their perfect smile in the quickest, most painless way possible by utilizing a wide range of options from traditional braces to Propel accelerated treatment to Dr. Laster's in-house aligner program, Laster Perfect Smile. With three locations throughout the Triangle Area, we create life-changing smiles every day.