What Can Braces Fix?
Initially, this seems like a very straightforward question. Most people will request orthodontics for themselves or another family member with the aim of achieving a more beautifully aligned smile. In fact, there are several other reasons for considering orthodontic treatment. For example, are you aware that speech impediments can be caused by misaligned teeth or malocclusion, and where your teeth do not bite together correctly? If you have problems with your speech, then orthodontics could help.
When to Consider Orthodontics for Speech Impediments
Your dentist may suggest treatment with us here at Ballard Orthodontics if you have problems pronouncing certain sounds or words, or if you find you whistle when you talk or if you have a lisp. Treatment may also be helpful if you struggle to be understood and perhaps people complain that you mumble? Our board-certified orthodontist Dr. Rick Ballard can provide the most advanced and most up-to-date orthodontic solutions to help you speak more clearly, while at the same time you will enjoy having straighter teeth and a healthy smile.
What Does It Mean If You Have Misaligned Teeth?
When your teeth are poorly aligned, it can cause serious oral health problems. Ideally, when your teeth are properly aligned they will fit easily into your mouth and will be correctly spaced. You won’t have any problems with crowding and your teeth should be properly oriented, so they are not rotated or twisted. When your teeth fit together correctly, your upper teeth will slightly overlap your lower teeth and the cusps of your premolars and molars which are the pointed ridges will fit into the grooves of the teeth in the opposing jaw. Any deviations in alignment are known as malocclusion. If you have malocclusion then your teeth cannot perform vital functions. Malocclusion can occur if you have teeth that are crowded, or if you have a crossbite, overbite, underbite or open bite. One side-effect of malocclusion is frequently biting the insides of your cheeks and lips or biting your tongue.
What Can Cause Malocclusion?
Often malocclusion is inherited but certain conditions and habits can increase the risk of poorly aligned teeth. These include:
- Using a pacifier after age 3
- Prolonged thumb or finger sucking
- Prolonged use of a bottle in early childhood
- Cleft lip and palate
- Tumors in the jaw or mouth
- Having impacted or abnormally shaped teeth
- Poorly fitting dental restorations including crowns and fillings
Speech problems can also be caused by enlarged adenoids or tonsils, or by TMJ disorders which affect your jaw joints, making it harder to comfortably move your lower jaw.
How Malocclusion Can Affect Your Speech
If you have an overbite, a crossbite or open bite, then you may have problems with your speech. To speak clearly, teeth must meet correctly, creating a seal and allowing the tongue to be properly positioned in the roof of the mouth. Often an opening is created if you have an overbite or open bite, so instead of your teeth forming the proper seal, it is created by your tongue, resulting in a speech impediment. If there is insufficient room for your tongue which is often a problem with underbites or crossbites, this can also affect speech.
Lisping or Whistling
A lisp or whistle can be caused by an overbite. An overbite is caused when your upper teeth bite too far forward of your lower teeth, overlapping them by a considerable margin. Another possible cause of lisping or whistling could be due to gaps in between your teeth, allowing air to escape while you talk and preventing your tongue from resting in the proper position. Orthodontics can close the gaps in between teeth and correct an overbite.
To pronounce words correctly, your tongue needs to be able to move properly and this also helps to regulate the speed at which you talk. If your teeth are positioned incorrectly, movement of your tongue can be restricted which may result in slurred speech or even a stutter. This problem may also be caused by the structure of your jaw. It is often possible to use braces to align the teeth, creating more room for the tongue.
If your teeth aren’t exactly where they are meant to be then it can be difficult or nearly impossible to pronounce words. Certain sounds require your tongue to contact your teeth, for example, sounds like “s,” “t,” “z” or “ch” will be tricky to pronounce correctly if your teeth are misaligned. It can also be more difficult to pronounce strident sounds, for example, words such as “ship” or “page.” To make the sounds correctly, the stream of air escaping from the mouth must be aligned with the front teeth. If your front teeth do not meet correctly then these strident sounds are harder to enunciate. Orthodontic treatment can precisely realign teeth, making it easier to correctly pronounce words.
Exploring Possible Treatment Options
If you are interested in orthodontics or perhaps have a young child who you think may have speech problems due to the alignment of their teeth, then it’s best to make an appointment for a full consultation with Dr. Ballard. After examining your teeth and jaws, she can recommend the most suitable treatment to achieve the very best outcome. Your teeth and jaws are unique, so every treatment recommended is carefully customized to accommodate your needs. Young children could benefit from early interceptive orthodontics.
Early Orthodontic Evaluations for Young Patients
Children can have an orthodontic evaluation as early as age six or seven. While it is rare for a child to receive orthodontic treatment at this age, an evaluation can be useful in helping to identify potential problems. By closely monitoring the development of your child’s teeth and their jaw growth, Dr. Ballard can recommend the most suitable treatment to help ensure their bite develops correctly. Sometimes early treatment can be very helpful if your child has a small upper jaw, or if their teeth are in a crossbite, or if they have developmental problems because of thumb or finger sucking. Orthodontic appliances can help to guide the growth of their jaws, potentially reducing treatment time during their teens and preventing the removal of permanent teeth.
Orthodontic Treatment for Adults
Not everyone had the opportunity to wear braces during childhood or may have seen their teeth shift with age. If your speech has been affected, perhaps by teeth shifting position or by tooth loss then it’s possible for Dr. Ballard to work with your general dentist, repositioning your teeth prior to restorative dental work. This can help to ensure you receive an optimal outcome if you need dental implants or a dental bridge.