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Listen Closely... Are Your Child's Dental Habits Affecting Their Speech?

Listen Closely… Are Your Child’s Dental Habits Affecting Their Speech?

the science of smilesIn most instances, babies begin to make vowel sounds as early as 2-3 months. As a parent, your response to them is an important way to create an affectionate bond and encourage speech development. Although you can usually expect proficiency with vowels by the time your child enters toddler-stage, consonant sounds are more difficult, and commonly not mastered until around age eight.

However, because early childhood speech problems can emerge rapidly, I encourage parents to always listen closely not just to what their children say, but how they say it. It’s important to stay open to the possible need for intervention. What may seem cute to you can lead to teasing, embarrassment, and shame at school. It can also become more difficult to treat once it becomes an ingrained behavior or when the jaw is affected.

Common Speech Problems Affected by Dental Issues

Although speech problems can be caused by structural problems such as a cleft lip or palate, impaired hearing, neurological disturbances, or even from mimicking someone else’s poor speech patterns, dentists are often the first health care professionals parents consult with because they rightly associate speech with the oral cavity.

In my practice I commonly see speech problems affected by dental issues. These include mispronouncing Ts and Ds, tongue thrusting (reverse swallowing), lisping, and the inability to produce the S, Z, SH, CH, and J sounds. A root cause for many of these is thumb-sucking – a normal and comforting behavior for babies and young children that has even been observed in the womb.

Dental Health Habits Parents Should Be Mindful Of

When prolonged, however, thumb-sucking, pacifiers, and even sippy cups may cause alignment problems that affect teeth, appearance, and a malformation of the roof of the mouth. The tongue is one of the strongest muscles in the body and helps to form a proper palatal structure, but if its job is replaced by a pacifier or bottle, a high narrow palate can form instead.

Malocclusion usually corrects itself if thumb-sucking stops early enough — I suggest as close to age one as possible — but the longer it continues, the more likely it is that treatment will be needed to correct any resulting dental problems.

Bringing your children in for regular dental checkups is your primary defense against ongoing speech impediments, and for oral health issues and dentally related speech problems, the earlier the evaluation the better. I encourage you to call if you have any questions.


THE SCIENCE OF SMILES® offers affordable cosmetic and laser dentistry and gentle, compassionate general dental care in Pasadena, CA. Our office is conveniently located with extended hours to meet your needs. At THE SCIENCE OF SMILES®, we provide most dental services, from basic preventative care and general dentistry to specialized procedures, complete dental reconstruction and TMJ/Headache management. Patient satisfaction is our top priority and we strive to provide the exceptional, affordable dental care and personal touch that lead to lasting relationships. A smiling patient is our greatest reward and we look forward to keeping those smiles healthy, beautiful, and bright. Discover affordable up-to-date dentistry and a team who truly cares at THE SCIENCE OF SMILES®.