Speech problems can arise from different conditions. When they are due to a malocclusion or misalignment of teeth or premature tooth loss, they can often be improved or corrected with braces to realign the teeth. Other conditions that can cause speech problems involve bones and cannot be corrected using braces alone. Some conditions involving bones that cause speech problems include:
- Cleft palate and/or cleft lip. These are birth defects in which the palate and/or lip do not completely develop in the womb. Children born with these conditions can have trouble breathing, eating, hearing, and speech.
- Jawbone is too small. Small jawbones result in crowded teeth. This can interfere with the ability to properly close the mouth, chew food, as well as interfere with speech.
- Upper and lower jaw bones are of different sizes. This condition will cause teeth to meet improperly and will result in an overbite from an oversized upper jaw where the top teeth significantly overlap the bottom teeth when the mouth is closed, or an underbite from an oversized lower jaw where the opposite happens.
There are a variety of reasons why jaws do not grow to a correct size and/or grow unevenly. Some known causes for problems with the jaw include excessive use of pacifiers beyond age three, jaw injuries, heredity, and endocrine disorders.
Why Do Jaw Problems and Teeth Misalignment Interfere with Speech?
We use our mouth, tongue, and/or teeth to make the sounds that form words. This coordinated effort requires the mouth maintain the ability to close, the teeth to meet properly, and the tongue to press against parts of the mouth and teeth. With malocclusion alone and more frequently with malocclusion combined with jaw problems, these functions cannot be performed exactly right. People with jaw problems and related teeth misalignment will have difficulty annunciating words. They may whistle while speaking if the condition allows too much air to pass between the teeth. They may slur words, lisp, or have other speech problems. The speech problems can cause embarrassment and negatively impact self-esteem.
Sometimes misalignments of the teeth and/or jaw cause other problems as well. They can cause problems with chewing, which can interfere with proper digestion and impair overall health. They can cause discomfort or pain. They can distort facial features. The situation can be very frustrating.
What Can Be Done to Address Speech Problems?
If the speech problem is related to jaw misalignments and/or sizing, oral surgery alone or in combination with tooth extractions and/or braces can dramatically improve problems with speech. Patients often find that their appearance is improved as well, which can also be achieved by orthognathic surgery.
Initial evaluation will include an appointment to discuss patient needs, and examination of the mouth and teeth. In this or a subsequent visit, oral surgeons may take photographs, X-rays, and models of the teeth to further evaluate the exact nature of the problem and work that needs to be done. These and potentially other imaging and computer-aided analysis will be used to establish a blueprint for how the jaw will be reshaped. The surgery may also entail removal of some teeth.
Postoperative care can include prescribing pain medication and providing instructions for diet, activity limitations, and work restrictions during the recovery period. Healing can take from about six to 12 weeks depending on a variety of factors. The correction should be permanent, and significant improvements in speech and appearance are the norm.
Mullica Hill Oral Surgeons at Lanzi Burke Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons Help Clients with Speech Problems
If you have a speech problem related to teeth misalignment and/or issues with jawbone sizing and/or alignment, the experienced Mullica Hill oral surgeons at Lanzi Burke Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons can help. We enjoy the challenge of orthognathic surgery and look forward to seeing you enjoy talking and smiling. Call us today at 856-582-4222 or contact us online to make an appointment or schedule a consultation. With offices in Washington Township, Haddonfield, and Woolwich Township, New Jersey, we are dedicated to helping patients throughout South Jersey.