If you or your child has a lisp, you may be wondering if braces can help. A lisp is a speech disorder that causes people to incorrectly say “s” and “z” sounds. Many people with a lisp also have problems with other speech sounds. Orthodontic treatment can often help correct these problems. In this blog post, we will discuss the causes of lisps and how braces can help fix them.
- Lisp and Bite
- Orthodontics: Cause or Solution to Lisping
- Lisp with Braces: How long will it last
- How to Prevent or Fix Orthodontic Lisp
A lisp is when a person may not use their tongue to correctly pronounce words containing the letter /s/ or /z/. In people who have a lisp, the tongue doesn’t connect with the roof of the mouth to correctly say words, causing words with /s/ or /z/ to have a /th/ pronunciation.
Having a lisp can make speaking uncomfortable and affect a child’s self-confidence as they grow up. But can orthodontic treatment help correct a lisp?
Causes of lisp
There are no known causes of lisps. Some people think that using a pacifier after a certain age may contribute to lisps. They believe prolonged pacifier use can strengthen the muscles of the tongue and lips, making lisps more likely. However, pacifier usage is not a factor in every child with a lisp. Additionally, not all children that use a pacifier get a lisp, so the conclusion is questionable.
Other possible causes of lisps include:
- Tongue-tie: a condition where the tongue placement is tethered to the bottom of the mouth. This restricts its movement. Another name for a tongue-tie is ankyloglossia.
- Problems with jaw alignment
- Having learned to say the sound incorrectly
Lisp and Bite
It’s possible that lisping can also be caused by a malocclusion, the technical term for misaligned teeth, but it can also refer to an improper bite. An improper bite is when the teeth don’t fit together correctly, preventing the tongue from properly connecting with the roof of the mouth for proper pronunciation. Incorrect bites that may cause a lisp would include:
- An overbite, in which the top teeth extend too far over the bottom teeth.
- An open bite, in which the upper and lower rows of teeth don’t touch when the mouth is shut.
- An underbite, in which the lower teeth extend beyond the front teeth when the mouth is at rest.
The good news is that orthodontic treatment can correct crooked teeth and all of these bite problems, which may help improve or completely correct a lisp.
Orthodontics: Cause or Solution to Lisping
Any dental or orthodontic appliance (especially lingual braces or Invisalign) in your mouth has the potential to cause a heavy speech impediment or affect the way that you speak (slightly slurred speech). This is especially true with dental appliances that add any extra thickness to the roof of your mouth, or the area right behind your front teeth.
Lisp can occur when a person wears braces, especially when they cannot articulate fricative (such as /s/, /z/, /sh/) or affricate (/ch/ and /j/) consonants and other variations of the same sounds. Any lingual braces speech problems or difficulty resulting from an adjustment to wearing dental braces is temporary and not permanent. The tongue may be having difficulty reaching places, the tongue protrudes beyond the front teeth, and you may find yourself lisping at times.
On the other hand, traditional braces can help correct lisping by correcting the alignment of the teeth. If the teeth are correctly aligned, the tongue will be able to connect with the roof of the mouth to pronounce words properly. Orthodontic treatment can often help correct these problems.
Lisp with Braces: How long will it last
Every patient is different, but in general, any lisp or unclear speech due to Invisalign will go away after no more than a few weeks. Some people even adjust their speech fluency within a few hours! If a lisp occurs, it will fade and eventually disappear as the tongue get accustomed to the aligners and adjusts accordingly.
How to Prevent or Fix Orthodontic Lisp
To prevent or fix a lisp due to Invisalign or braces, keep talking! The first instinct may be to talk less to hide the defect for someone with a lisp. But talking will actually help fix the issue sooner. Because the lisp is caused when the tongue adjusts to the orthodontic appliance, the more a person talks, the more quickly the tongue will learn how to maneuver around the aligners to form sounds, and the more quickly speech will return to normal.
To avoid speaking with a lisp at a significant event or during an important meeting or phone call, just remove the aligners for that specific time. Unlike other dental work, Invisalign can be removed temporarily during treatment. The aligners must come out while eating, and they can also be taken out at other times as needed.
Contact the prescribing dentist or orthodontist if the lisp develops after beginning your orthodontic treatment and doesn’t go away within a few weeks. It’s normal to have a slight lisp during the adjustment period as the mouth and tongue relearn how to make the proper shapes for each sound while wearing the aligners. If the issue is ongoing, however, there could be a problem with the fit or placement of the mold.