The mouth is a complex part of the body with a lot of individual pieces that can influence each other. One common question we get at our pediatric dental office in Chattanooga is if tooth positioning can affect a child’s speech development. The short answer is yes, but it’s a little bit more complicated than that.
We’re not talking about nouns or adjectives, but more about the parts of our anatomy that allow us to speak. When speaking, the tongue, lips, cheeks, and teeth all have a part to play. Ideally, they work in harmony and produce a clear, well-enunciated sound. But sometimes, there’s a disconnect that can negatively impact speech.
This disconnect is often referred to as an Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder (OMD). OMDs occur when the tongue falls into an atypical position, usually too far forward or between the top and bottom teeth, during swallowing, speech, or rest. Dentists or orthodontists typically identify OMDs when the tongue’s position begins to influence tooth positioning and tooth eruption in smaller children.
The good news is OMDs don’t always impact speech development, but they can. Since OMDs cause the tongue to wedge up against teeth or slide between the upper and lower teeth, certain sounds become increasingly difficult to make. Most commonly, children and adults with OMDs have trouble enunciating sounds like s, z, sh, zh, ch, and j. Instead of crisp, solid sounds, they produce more a “th” noise.
There are several known causes of OMDs, including, but not limited to:
If you’re concerned that your child may have a mouth condition that’s influencing speech development, contact our Chattanooga pediatric dental office to schedule an appointment. We’ll be happy to see your child, perform a gentle, thorough exam, and determine the best treatment for him.