The development of our mouth directly affects our speech. The shape and health of our mouths are factors in speech, dental health, cosmetic appearance, and comfort. A child’s mouth develops rapidly with their growing bodies and some are born with issues, like cleft pallet/lip that must be addressed immediately for purposes of speech development and the ability to take in nutrition.

How Different Issues Affect Speech Development

Cleft Palate/Lip

Along with the variance in severity of a cleft, and whether or not it includes both the palate and the lip, there is a wide variance on the impact to speech and speech development. In addition, the severity of the cleft is not a good indication of the speech abilities. Often, it is not clear how speech will be affected until after the child begins to speak.

Some children with a cleft may sound nasal. This is because the soft palate is not able to properly close off the nose from the mouth. Holes in the palate may make it difficult to produce certain sounds like s, z, and sh because the tongue must be placed in that location to create those sounds. Missing teeth may also impact the production of sounds such as f and v.

Additional problems arise if the child has hearing difficulties as well as cleft issues. If the child has difficulty hearing the sounds, they will have problems producing the sounds. This is compounded by challenges with a cleft palate/lip.

The CDC “recently estimated that, each year in the United States, about 2,650 babies are born with a cleft palate and 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate.” Recently, the CDC reported on important findings from research studies about some factors that increase the chance of having a baby with an orofacial cleft:

  • Smoking―Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have a baby with an orofacial cleft than women who do not smoke.
  • Diabetes―Women with diabetes diagnosed before pregnancy have an increased risk of having a child with a cleft lip with or without cleft palate, compared to women who did not have diabetes.
  • Use of certain medicines―Women who used certain medicines to treat epilepsy, such as topiramate or valproic acid, during the first trimester (the first 3 months) of pregnancy have an increased risk of having a baby with cleft lip with or without cleft palate, compared to women who didn’t take these medicines.

If these malformations are severe enough they must be addressed immediately or the child’s development can be adversely affected.

Tooth Loss

Attention to oral health is imperative in preventing premature loss of teeth. Aside from the speech problems tooth loss can cause other issues to arise if our mouths are not healthy and properly aligned. Our mouths are the beginning of our long, complex digestive system and do important and complex jobs. It does things like saliva production and chewing to prepare our food for further digestion. Keeping our children’s mouths and teeth healthy is vital to overall health and appearance.

Teeth and Mouth Alignment 

Physical appearance is generally important to us but there are other reasons to be concerned about development of teeth. A leading cosmetic dentist says

 If there are issues with your teeth such as structural issues or mis-alignment, you are likely to suffer from some kind of speech impediment such as the slurring of speech or even lisps. While speech impediments that are related to tooth problems occur because the speech organs or articulators such as the tongue, teeth and lips are unable to efficiently produce sound, sometimes a speech impediment may be due to an overly self-consciousness personality in a person with a dental flaw. Generally, people who are embarrassed by their dental flaws will try as much as possible to conceal it by covering their mouth and that affects speech articulation.”

Danville Family Dentistry offers many services that can help support the overall health and development of your family’s mouth and teeth. Contact us by calling 317-745-4400 to establish a dental health routine at an early age for your child or to stay on the path to good dental health as an adult.

Disclaimer: The information included in this article is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.