February 12, 2015

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How Dental Issues May Impact Speech

Did you know your teeth play an important role in how you speak?

Sometimes, dental issues may impact or hinder a person’s pronunciation. Other issues that may affect speech include tongue thrust, immature swallow patterns, open bite or a cleft lip or palate.

A tongue thrust is when the tongue pushes on the teeth and causes pressure which leads to a change in the position of the teeth.

Untreated tongue thrusts or an immature swallow pattern can lead to crooked or misaligned teeth in children and adults. If the tongue thrust goes untreated, the pressure on the teeth will continue during and after orthodontic treatment. This is why some children and adults who have had braces in the past still have crooked or misaligned teeth even after the braces have been removed.

A normal swallow pattern includes the placement of the tongue against the hard palate with the tip of the tongue slightly behind the upper teeth.

However, a tongue thrust swallow pattern may have the tongue pushing directly behind the teeth causing the teeth to push forward. This may affect top teeth, bottom teeth or both sets of teeth and lead to an open bite.

Speech therapy can help correct a tongue thrust swallow pattern through the use of oral exercises and the correct placement of articulators.

A speech therapist can also work with a patient with a cleft lip or palate to improve the patient’s swallow pattern and speech sound production.

Some patients may require corrective surgery to help with these issues. However, after surgery he or she may continue to use patterns they used before surgery. A speech therapist can help re-teach the patient how to produce sounds and swallow correctly.

Speech therapy can be started before, during or after treatment in order to facilitate effective dental care. A speech therapist can be a great ally to help achieve and maintain a healthy, beautiful smile.

If your child is experiencing speech delays and/or deficits, contact the Epic Pediatric Therapy clinic nearest you for support. To learn more about our pediatric therapy services, visit our website.

Veronica Chavarria, M.S., CCC-SLP
Marybell Balderas, M.S., CCC-SLP
El Paso, Texas