Parents are often surprised to find out that orthodontia like braces, palatal expanders, and retainers affect their child’s speech. Just as teeth affect speech, adding things into your child’s mouth will definitely affect how someone’s speech sounds in the short term, even if the long term goal is to address orthodontic concerns.
Children often go through two phases of orthodontia. Phase I can involve spacers, palate expanders, and/or braces while baby teeth are still in place. After this phase, everything is often removed with a year’s break before Phase II begins. Phase II often begins when more adult teeth are in place.
What sounds are affected?
Palatal expanders and retainers can affect sounds like S, Z, J, L, T, D, and R because they take up space in the mouth, alter the airflow, and affect where the tongue can or cannot go.
If your child has a removable appliance, then speech may be distorted when the appliance is in the mouth and may sound normal when the appliance is out of the mouth.
If my child gets braces, does s/he still need speech therapy?
If your child is receiving speech therapy and is planning to get orthodontia, then be sure to keep your speech-language pathologist in the loop. It’s important to keep all members of the team informed of the plan and timeframe. Learning to speak with orthodontia has an adjustment period.
Depending on your child’s goals and the current progress on those goals, your child could be graduated from speech, put on hold, or kept on therapy after s/he gets used to the orthodontia.
This post is for informational purposes only and not meant to diagnose or treat any speech, dental, or orthodontic concerns. Please contact a speech-language pathologist, dentist, or orthodontist if you should have further questions or concerns.