Do Braces Affect Speech? (Lisp?)
Do braces affect speech? It is normal to experience some minor difficulties speaking when getting traditional braces or clear aligners for the first time. It may take a few days when this occurs, but eventually, your mouth and tongue will adjust, and you will be able to speak normally again.
As lingual braces are placed closer to the tongue, they may have a greater impact on your speech. You will become more comfortable speaking with it as you become accustomed to the appliance. During the adjustment period, it is important to be patient with yourself and to speak with your orthodontist if you have any concerns.
Speech and Language
- You already know that they help straighten teeth, which can result in a more positive self-image, as well as help contribute to healthy teeth and gums. Most patients have corrective instruments for a while – sometimes up to a couple of years. It is natural to think about how your life will be affected.
- While it is true that your speech can be affected, the amount of misinformation online and from your friends can vastly overblow the truth. Your orthodontist is more than qualified to speak on the issue. When in doubt, it’s best to talk to them first. To alleviate some of the more common questions, below are some simple facts about the process.
Any Speech Change Will Be Temporary
- You will notice a slight change in the way that your speech sounds. Not only to yourself but also to friends and loved ones. This can not only be due to the fact that you now have a permanent object inside of your mouth, but also because of the swelling and inflammation that will surround the initial setup.
- It also depends on how much hardware is actually used in your mouth; for those who require palatal expanders and retainers, your words will definitely come out different. Once these are taken out, your speech will go back to normal very quickly.
- A Lisp occurs when a person cannot articulate fricative or affricate consonants, such as /s/, /z/, /sh/, /ch/ and other variations of the same sounds. The lisp is primarily a misarticulation that results in unclear speech and is mostly due to error in tongue placement within the mouth.
Not a Speech Disorder
- You can get speech therapy but given the ease and temporary nature of the lisping effect. This is not a speech disorder and doesn’t need speech therapy.
- Keep in mind that you are most likely to notice any speech issues more than anyone else. Since you are around yourself all the time, your brain has become hyper-sensitive to the sound of your own voice. Now that you’re aware of the changes going on, you’ll notice every little difference more than others.
Your Voice Will Adapt
- The human body is a remarkable machine. That extends to the way in which your mouth will adapt to the inclusion of new hardware in your mouth. Not only will your speaking patterns change the longer you have your braces, but the easier other functions such as eating and drinking will be too. For some, this time period can be a couple of days, for others, it may be a few weeks, but either way, your body will adapt and your speech will improve.
- Children will need speech-language practice at home. Information on Youtube or an app young ones will understand will make it fun. The reason for this change can largely be attributed to your tongue. Part of the initial fear is that your tongue will rub up against the metal that is now in your mouth. The body instinctively pulls away creating the variations in sound.
- This results in a different speaking style than they are normally used to, and the person is largely ignorant of this fact. Over time, as the person gets more comfortable with their new setup. Your body will relax and the voice should return to normal.
It Also Depends on What Kind You Get
- Normally when we think about this subject, we think of huge metal wires poking every which way within our mouth. Or a gigantic bust on the front of our teeth that pokes our checks and lips forward like a duck. While those images are vastly overblown and do not represent reality in any way, it needs to be pointed out that every person’s setup will be unique to their own person.
- Lingual braces, for instance, are installed on the back of the teeth, instead of the front. This can minimize any initial discomfort and speech issues that the person develops. Invisalign, a relatively newer version, accomplishes much the same purpose but does so much more discretely than traditional supports. Invisalign contours to your teeth and is clear in color, providing a very minimal, yet effective, look. Both of these types can be costly, however, and are not available for everyone. So it’s best to talk to your orthodontist to see which is best.
- Furthermore, ask your orthodontist about dental wax. Sometimes it can lubricate and smooth out the various brackets installed and make speech a little easier, especially in the initial phase.
It May Actually Fix Current Speech Issues
- Since you’ve heard yourself speak your whole life, it’s possible that you are unaware of the various ways in which your speech is already affected. Sometimes impediments like lisps and slurs exist for years unbeknownst to the speaker and can be due to alignment problems. The way in which your tongue sits against your teeth is important, and if your teeth are not straight, it can drastically impact your speaking.
- Overbites are another common problem of speech problems. This usually results in a lisp, and teeth gaps can produce a unique whistling sound. If this is the case, then getting professional help may be more than just a cosmetic improvement, but also drastically help your overall speaking. In other words, it will affect the way you speak, but for the better, instead of worse.
- Either way, the pros greatly outweigh the cons. It’s worth a simple phone call or a trip down to your local office to ask a few quick questions.
Don’t Forget the Positives!
- When you first leave the office, it is normal to feel discouraged about your new look. Remember the positives throughout the process. Not only are you doing wonders for your teeth’s appearance and overall health, but you are also giving yourself a chance to focus on how you enunciate and speak in general.
- Many brace-wearers have gone on to lead very productive and influential lives, in large part thanks to their speaking abilities. People like Ryan Seacrest, Tom Cruise, Faith Hill, Prince Harry, and Oprah Winfrey all had hardware at some point. Their ability to speak and communicate clearly can be partially attributed to those years. Your mouth will adapt as well, and the time spent focusing on how to speak clearly and distinctly will pay off dividends down the road.
You will have a dazzling smile for many years to come, so the inconvenience of speech difficulty is a small price to pay. It won’t take you long to adjust, so be patient.
To help you adjust to your mouth appliances, you may need to schedule a consultation with your orthodontist if you are still experiencing difficulty speaking after orthodontic treatment.
Dr. Joel Gluck has practiced orthodontics since 1983 when he opened his own office in Nashville. He earned his undergraduate degree at Washington University in St. Louis, and his dental degree at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Gluck then completed an orthodontic specialty residency at the University of Michigan, one of the top five orthodontic training residencies in the country. He also wrote an original thesis and received a Master of Science degree.
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