Although our teeth serve primarily to bite and chew our food, they also play an important role in our ability to communicate with others, both verbally and nonverbally. At the same time, it’s easy to overlook the ways in which speech disorders and their origins affect oral health. Dr. Vi Mai, a Garland, TX family dentist who treats patients of all ages, discusses the unique relationship between oral health and speech pathology.
Common Dental Causes of Speech Disorders
The term malocclusion describes a condition in which the teeth are not properly positioned when the jaws and mouth are closed. One type of malocclusion, open bite, occurs when the front teeth are not closed together, usually with a prominent gap. Open bite in young children raises concerns because several sounds commonly used in speech cannot be enunciated when so much space is present between these teeth. Orthodontic appliances are commonly used to coax teeth into their proper position.
The frenum, which attaches the underside of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth, must be of a certain length to permit a full range of movement of the tongue. When a child has a short frenum, he cannot move his tongue to pronounce sounds made by the letters D, L, N, R, and T. If your child has a short frenum, Dr. Mai will most likely refer you to an ear, nose, and throat doctor. Fortunately, the problem can be addressed with a very minor surgical procedure.
All children eventually lose their baby teeth over a period of several years. When a tooth is lost to natural causes, a permanent tooth is quick to erupt afterward. Potential problems arise when a child loses several teeth at once, whether as the result of an injury or illness, or when extraction is needed to address major decay or infection. The problem is more pronounced when it affects the front teeth.
Children who have a cleft lip or cleft palate are more likely to experience problems pronouncing several different sounds. Oral health concerns for children with either condition include a higher risk for multiple cavities, weakened tooth enamel, and the possibility of developing extra or less teeth than normal. Speech therapy, surgery, or a combination of the two may be needed to prevent long-term effects. Dr. Mai may advise more frequent professional cleaning and dental exams. Dental sealants or fluoride treatments, which fortify the tooth enamel, help combat tooth decay.
Prolonged thumb sucking applies unnatural pressure that affects the physical structure of the mouth. The palate may become deformed, and teeth are forced forward at an angle. As a result, the child may develop an open bite. These changes interfere with speech development and may affect the proper positioning of new teeth as they erupt through the gums. This often leads to crowding, which makes cleaning teeth more difficult.
Compassionate, kid-friendly dental care in Garland, TX. To learn more about children’s dentistry and oral health, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Vi Truong-Mai, contact us at (972) 530-0552. We offer dental care for your entire family, including restorative, cosmetic, and preventive dentistry. Our staff speaks English, Spanish, and Vietnamese and serves patients living in Dallas, Allen, Murphy, Wylie, Richardson, and the surrounding areas.