Can Braces Help Your Child’s Speech?

Have you ever wondered about the connection between orthodontics and speech therapy? These two fields might seem quite different, but they often team up to address speech-related issues. Orthodontics focuses on aligning teeth and jaws, while speech therapy works on diagnosing and treating speech disorders.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the connection between orthodontics and speech and explain how we collaborate with speech and myofunctional therapists for an effective treatment process. And we’ll take a closer look at why an early evaluation is essential.

Let’s dive in!

Can Braces Help Your Child’s Speech?

Have you ever wondered about the connection between orthodontics and speech therapy? These two fields might seem quite different, but they often team up to address speech-related issues. Orthodontics focuses on aligning teeth and jaws, while speech therapy works on diagnosing and treating speech disorders.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the connection between orthodontics and speech and explain how we collaborate with speech and myofunctional therapists for an effective treatment process. And we’ll take a closer look at why an early evaluation is essential.

Let’s dive in!

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Understanding the relationship between braces and speech

Speech articulation is influenced by the position of our teeth. When the teeth are misaligned or the jaws are not properly aligned, this can lead to various speech-related problems. Braces can address issues such as overbites, underbites and crowded teeth, all of which can influence speech clarity. Orthodontic treatments can significantly contribute to improved speech by optimising teeth and jaw alignment. And it’s not only teeth that we look at during your orthodontic treatment. The muscles in your face and your tongue position can have a major impact on your teeth alignment too. This is where speech therapists come in.

Collaboration between orthodontists and speech therapists

Speech therapy can play an important role in your child’s dental treatment. Orthodontists often work closely with speech therapists and myofunctional therapists who provide targeted exercises to balance and correct facial muscles during the braces-wearing period.

During our initial consultation, we look at tongue placement and identify muscular habits that may be the underlying cause of crooked teeth or poor jaw alignment. These can include mouth breathing, tongue thrust and deviated swallowing. We may recommend that you contact a speech therapist to address these issues.

At SmileDesigner, we work with several speech therapy practices that specialise in oral myofunctional therapy.

Braces and oral myofunctional therapy

Oral myofunctional therapy (OMFT) is often used in conjunction with orthodontics. This specialist therapy focuses on the muscles of the mouth, tongue and face. Therapists are trained to treat muscle disorders and correct muscle patterns that may affect your child’s dental development.

Oral myofunctional therapists work to balance facial muscles and address issues related to tongue posture, swallowing patterns, breathing through the mouth, and improper alignment of the jaws and teeth. The treatment typically involves exercises designed to train and strengthen the muscles of the tongue, lips, cheeks and jaw. These exercises help to establish proper resting tongue posture, encourage nasal breathing and promote effective swallowing patterns.

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Child wearing removeable braces

Speech issues that orthodontic treatment can address

  • Dental issues such as crowded teeth, overbites, underbites and crossbites can all have different effects on speech. Here are some of the common speech issues that can be fixed by orthodontic treatment:
  • Lisping: Lisping occurs when the tongue is unable to make contact with the teeth or the teeth are misaligned, sometimes caused by thumb sucking. Children can find it challenging to pronounce certain words properly, especially those with an “s” or a “z”.
  • Difficulty pronouncing certain sounds: Overcrowding, underbites and overbites can make it challenging to pronounce some sounds like “d”, “th” or “r.”
  • Slurred or muffled speech: This can be caused by a lack of space or incorrect tongue position resulting in general articulation problems.
  • Whistling: Your teeth control the flow of air, and whistling can occur when there is too much space in between the teeth allowing air to escape.
  • Tooth gaps: A large space between your teeth or a missing tooth can make It difficult to pronounce certain words or ‘s’ sounds.

Importance of early intervention

Children’s teeth and jaws grow and change at a remarkable rate. Early assessment of muscle dysfunctions or habits of the muscles around the jaws, lips, and mouth is essential. Before your child starts orthodontic treatment, it may be necessary to diagnose and treat unusual oral habits before they become more acute. We may refer you to an OMFT specialist.

Catching any problems early on can help in retraining muscles and habits. The aim is for muscles to work harmoniously, which in turn supports proper jaw alignment and tooth positioning. Early intervention to strengthen facial muscles and correct tongue or jaw position may also prevent the need for teeth to be removed before brace placement.

If you are wondering when to make an appointment for your child – the sooner the better! We recommend an initial evaluation at around 6-8 years so we can plan the right treatment programme during this formative phase.

Conclusion

The role of orthodontics often extends beyond teeth alignment. We assess a wide range of dental issues such as malocclusions and incorrect muscle development as part of your orthodontic treatment.

Collaborating with other experts like oral myofunctional specialists can help your child to achieve improved oral function and muscle balance, enhanced and a more effective treatment outcome.

Please contact us if you have any concerns about your child’s speech or oral habits. We will be happy to arrange an initial consultation to discuss treatment and therapy options.