Feeling confident about your smile isn’t just about aesthetics; it also plays an essential role in our ability to effectively communicate and our self-esteem. In fact, teeth and jaw alignment, as well as the overall structure of our mouth, can have significant impacts on how we pronounce words and speak in general. In this article, we’ll explore the interesting relationship between speech and teeth, jaw alignments and orthodontics, how dental alignment affects our ability to properly communicate, and how speech therapy can play a role.
While speech therapy alone will typically not solve all speech problems related to jaw and teeth alignment, when used in combination with orthodontic treatment, it can be highly effective in improving overall speech and communication skills. If you, or your child or teenager, are undergoing orthodontic treatment and might benefit from speech therapy, get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!
The Oral Cavity’s Role in Sound Generation
Before we examine the connection between jaw alignment, teeth, orthodontics, and speech, it’s important to understand the basics of sound production. Speech is produced through the interaction of a number of physical structures in the oral cavity, including the tongue, teeth, lips, and vocal cords.
When we speak, air from our lungs moves through the vocal cords, which in turn produces sound. This sound is then manipulated by the placement of our tongue, teeth, and lips to create particular speech sounds. These physical structures’ exact coordination and positioning are essential for clear and accurate speech production.
Common Orthodontic Issues and Their Impact on Speech
Overbites and Underbites: An overbite refers to when the upper front teeth overlap over the lower front teeth excessively. An underbite is the opposite, occurring when the lower front teeth protrude significantly beyond the upper front teeth. Both conditions can have effects on speech, often making it difficult to pronounce particular sounds such as ‘s,’ ‘z,’ and ‘th.’
Crowding and Spacing: When teeth are too crowded or spaced too widely in the mouth, speech difficulties can occur. Crowded teeth often cause lisping or challenges with the articulation of ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds, whereas significant gaps between teeth can cause a whistling sound during speech.
Crossbites: A crossbite refers to when the upper and lower teeth are not correctly aligned when biting down. This type of misalignment can cause issues with the production of ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds and, in some cases, may also affect the clarity of ‘ch’ and ‘sh’ sounds.
Does an Open Bite Affect Speech?
An open bite is a condition in which the front teeth do not close or come together when biting down, leaving a gap or open bite. This can lead to difficulties with the pronunciation of particular sounds such as ‘t,’ ‘d,’ and ‘n.’ An open bite has also been known to lead to the development of a lisp or other speech impediments.
Can Jaw Alignment Affect Speech?
There is a wide variety of ways in which the alignment of the teeth and jaw can impact speech. Some individuals may have a jaw that is too small, which results in crowded teeth and less room for the tongue to make the necessary movements for speech. Other individuals may struggle with temporary speech impediments after losing their primary teeth too early. In the majority of cases, however, it is the alignment of the jaw and teeth that can have the biggest impact on clear speech.
If you struggle to produce clear speech or simply want to consult an expert, connect with one of our amazing therapists by scheduling your free introductory call today!
Which Teeth Affect Speech?
The most important teeth in the mouth relating to speech production are the incisors. The incisors are the two front and central teeth on both the lower and upper jaws. Sounds such as “f” “v” “z” and “s” can only be properly produced with the help of our front teeth. For instance:
The “f” and “v” sounds are produced by pressing one’s lower lip against their upper teeth.
The “t” sound is produced by tapping the tip of the tongue against the back of the roof of the mouth and/or the upper teeth.
The “th” sound is made by placing the tip of the tongue against the bottom of the upper teeth.
To make “z” and “s” sounds, the teeth trap the air around the tongue
Sounds like “j,” “sh,” and “ch” are created in a similar way as “z” and “s“, however, the tongue is placed differently. While it may seem that these sounds don’t use the front teeth at all, missing or misaligned front teeth often make the pronunciation of these sounds much more difficult.
Can Braces Improve Speech?
Orthodontic treatment, including braces or Invisalign, can help to address common alignment issues and improve overall speech clarity. By properly aligning the teeth and jaw, orthodontics can help to create a balanced environment within the oral cavity, which in turn allows for improved control of tongue and lip movements during speech production.
There are many benefits of orthodontic treatment that extend beyond just improving speech clarity, as individuals frequently report increased self-esteem and confidence following their orthodontic treatment. This likely comes from the knowledge that they not only have a more cosmetically pleasing smile but also improved and enhanced communication skills.
Speech Therapy and Orthodontics
Speech therapy paired with orthodontic treatment, or following the completion of orthodontic treatment, can help train your tongue, teeth, and mouth to work together harmoniously and master the production of all speech sounds. Working with a speech therapist can also help with the adjustment to the feeling of your braces as they work to create a straighter smile and improve your articulation and general speaking skills. Getting started with speech therapy is as easy as scheduling your free introductory call today!