Do Braces Affect Speech? 

do Braces Affect Speech
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Braces are widely used to correct dental misalignments, but many wonder about their impact on speech. In this article, we explore the connection between braces and speech, providing insights for those considering orthodontic treatment.

Can Braces Affect Your Speech? Impact of Braces on Speech

The answer is: yes, braces can temporarily affect your speech. When braces are first placed, they introduce unfamiliar structures in the mouth, prompting the tongue, lips, and cheeks to navigate around them. This can lead to challenges in articulating specific sounds, sometimes resulting in a temporary lisp or slurred speech. Let’s take a look at how braces affect speech.

Temporary Lisp or Slurring

When people first get braces, it’s common to experience a temporary lisp or slurring of speech, as the mouth and tongue need time to adjust to the presence of the braces. This issue occurs for around 57% of people who have braces put on their teeth. 

Difficulty with Certain Sounds

While the majority of speech sounds are not impacted by braces, some individuals may have difficulty with certain sounds, particularly those that involve tongue contact with the teeth. For instance, sounds like “s” and “z” might be challenging for some people. This difficulty with particular sounds is because the braces change the shape of the mouth and create obstructions that the tongue has to navigate. Fortunately, as the mouth and tongue adjust to the braces over time, the ability to produce these sounds should gradually improve.

How Long Do Speech Problems Last?

Speech problems associated with braces typically present as a temporary issue. For most people, any speech irregularities, such as a lisp or difficulty pronouncing certain sounds, emerge soon after the braces are first applied. The majority of individuals adapt within a few days to a couple of weeks. The tongue and mouth muscles learn to navigate around the new structure, restoring normal speech patterns. However, the duration of speech problems can vary depending on the type and positioning of braces.

Types of Braces and Their Effect on Speech

Orthodontic treatments, while designed to correct dental misalignments, can sometimes introduce temporary challenges to our normal speech patterns. The adjustments our mouths undergo during these treatments can influence how we articulate certain sounds. From traditional metal braces to modern clear aligners, each orthodontic device interacts differently with our oral anatomy, leading to varied effects on speech.

Metal Braces

Traditional metal braces are positioned on the outer surface of the teeth, facing the lips and cheeks. Although they can lead to minor and temporary speech challenges, these issues are often short-lived. Most people encounter a brief adjustment phase, which might involve a temporary lisp or difficulty with certain sounds. Fortunately, the lips, tongue, and cheeks rapidly acclimate, usually resulting in restored normal speech within days.

Worth Knowing

Research featured in the Angle Orthodontist indicates that fixed braces on the front teeth can impact speech differently among patients. Some might experience a short-term change, while others may notice alterations lasting up to two months. Around 40% of individuals report no impact on their speech at all.

Lingual Appliances

Lingual appliances, or lingual braces, are placed on the inside surface of the teeth, facing the tongue. They are known to produce greater and more prolonged speech issues than other types of braces. Due to their placement, they can cause the tongue to have difficulties navigating and may lead to temporary lisping or unclear speech. However, most people tend to adapt to lingual braces over time and regain their regular speech abilities.

Clear Aligners

Clear aligners, such as Invisalign or Byte, consist of strong, flexible, removable plastic trays custom-made for a patient’s mouth. Since they are removable and less intrusive than traditional braces, clear aligners may not have as significant an impact on speech. Some people may experience a slight lisp or difficulty with certain sounds initially as they adjust to the aligners. However, as with other types of braces, individuals typically become accustomed to the appliance and regain normal speech function relatively quickly.

Worth Knowing

A survey in the Journal of Orofacial Orthopedics reports that 46% of the patients experienced no speech impairment. 

Do I Need Speech Therapy to Fix My Speech?

Initial speech difficulties caused by braces are mostly minor. However, some individuals might need professional intervention. The decision to seek speech therapy while having braces largely depends on the degree to which the braces impact your speech and how this affects your daily life. Here are some factors to consider:

Extent of Speech Changes: Braces, especially when first put on, can cause temporary alterations in speech, such as lisping or slurring. For many, these changes resolve naturally as the mouth adjusts. If, however, the speech changes persist beyond the initial adjustment period, it may be worth considering speech therapy.

Self-consciousness: If you find yourself avoiding social interactions, feeling embarrassed, or facing difficulty in professional settings due to your speech, therapy can offer techniques to improve clarity and boost confidence.

Nature of Braces: The type and positioning of braces can influence speech differently. For instance, lingual braces (positioned behind the teeth) might have a more pronounced effect than traditional braces. Understanding the specific challenges posed by your type of braces can help determine if therapy would be beneficial.

Daily Life and Occupation: For individuals whose professions heavily rely on speaking, like teachers, broadcasters, or public speakers, even minor speech disruptions can be problematic. In such cases, speech therapy could offer quicker adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Duration of Treatment: If you’ve only recently gotten braces, you might want to give yourself some time to adjust before considering therapy. However, if you’ve had them for a while and the speech issues persist, therapy could be beneficial.

Consult a Professional: If in doubt, it’s always a good idea to consult with a speech-language pathologist. They can provide an assessment, advise on whether therapy would be helpful, and offer strategies to cope with speech changes due to braces.

How to Adjust to Braces?

Braces, essential for aligning teeth and improving oral health, can cause several challenges when first applied. Among the most common issues are speaking problems, with individuals often experiencing changes in pronunciation or temporary lisping. But speech changes aren’t the only concern. Adapting to braces involves adjusting to new eating habits and oral hygiene routines as well. This paragraph aims to provide practical advice and steps to help individuals adjust to life with braces more comfortably.

Eat Soft Food and Drink Cold Drinks

When adjusting to braces, it’s helpful to eat soft foods and consume cold drinks. Soft foods are more comfortable to eat, reducing the pressure on your teeth and gums. Additionally, cold drinks can help alleviate any potential discomfort by providing relief to sensitive areas. Examples of soft foods include soups, mashed potatoes, yogurt, and scrambled eggs. 

Brush Your Teeth After Every Meal

Proper dental hygiene is essential after getting braces. Brush your teeth after every meal to prevent the accumulation of food particles and plaque around your braces. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to gently clean your teeth, bracket surfaces, and wires. Take your time and ensure you get all the areas around your braces. You can also use an interdental brush to reach tight spots that your regular toothbrush can’t. 

Floss Every Day

Flossing is crucial for maintaining good oral health while wearing braces. Floss daily to remove any trapped food particles between your teeth and braces. It’s important to use a floss threader or orthodontic floss to navigate around the wires and brackets more easily. Regular flossing can help prevent gum inflammation, tooth decay, and bad breath. 

Rinse with Salty Water

Rinsing your mouth with salty water is a helpful tip for adjusting to braces. A warm salt water rinse can alleviate pain, swelling, and irritation caused by your braces. Mix a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and swish it around your mouth for 30 seconds before spitting it out. Rinsing with salty water is a convenient, natural remedy that can be used as needed to help ease the transition period with braces.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do braces affect speech?

Braces can affect speech, particularly when they’re first applied. Some individuals may experience a slight lisp or difficulty pronouncing certain sounds. This is especially true for those who get braces or orthodontic appliances on the roof of the mouth, such as palatal expanders, which can interfere more directly with the tongue’s movement.

For most people, any speech difficulties experienced after getting braces are temporary. The majority of individuals adjust within a few days to a few weeks as the tongue and other oral structures become accustomed to the new appliance. During this adjustment period, the mouth learns to navigate around the braces or appliances, and speech returns to normal.

Do braces make it harder to speak?

Yes, braces can make it harder to speak initially. The presence of braces, especially during the early stages of treatment, can impact the positioning of your tongue and lips, which are essential for clear speech. As you get used to the braces, your tongue and lips will adapt, and your speech should improve over time.

Why do I talk weirdly after braces?

Talking differently after getting braces is quite common due to the changes in your mouth’s anatomy. The braces alter the position of your teeth, affecting the way your tongue, lips, and even the roof of your mouth interact during speech. This can result in altered airflow and tongue movements, leading to temporary speech difficulties. However, as your oral muscles adapt to the new alignment, your speech should gradually return to normal over a few weeks to months.

Do braces affect kissing?

Braces can have an impact on kissing, although it’s usually a temporary adjustment. The presence of braces can change the feel of a kiss for both the person wearing braces and their partner. Here are a few thoughts on how braces may affect kissing:

– The metal braces and wires can feel a bit awkward or uncomfortable at first for both people. It may take some getting used to.

– Braces can sometimes cause minor cuts or scrapes on the lips or tongue while kissing. This is usually not serious but can be annoying.

– It’s a good idea to go slowly and gently at first when kissing with braces. Once you get the hang of the right angle and pressure, it usually becomes less of an issue.

– Using lip balm can help make kissing more comfortable if braces are causing irritation.

-Braces tend to collect more food particles and bacteria. Be sure to brush and floss thoroughly after eating before kissing to avoid transferring anything unpleasant.

So in general, braces may require some minor adjustments but are usually not a significant obstacle to enjoying kissing.

Do braces affect singing?

Yes, braces can affect singing to some extent. The presence of braces can alter the positioning of your oral structures, including your tongue and lips, which play an important role in vocal production. This might lead to temporary changes in your singing voice, affecting pitch and resonance. However, with practice and time, you’ll likely adapt and find ways to work around these changes.

How to get rid of a lisp from braces?

To help reduce or eliminate a lisp caused by braces, consider the following steps:
Practice Regularly: Engage in speaking exercises to help your tongue and lips adapt to the changes in your mouth. Read aloud, recite tongue twisters, and practice different speech sounds.
Speech Therapy: Consider working with a speech therapist who can provide targeted exercises and guidance to improve your articulation and overcome the lisp.
Conscious Pronunciation: Pay attention to your speech patterns and consciously work on pronouncing words clearly. Focus on proper tongue placement and lip movements.
Sing and Hum: Singing and humming can help you become more aware of your mouth’s positioning and improve muscle control, which can aid in overcoming the lisp.
Hydration: Staying hydrated can prevent dry mouth, making it easier for your tongue to move smoothly. Chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on ice chips can also help stimulate saliva production.
Orthodontic Adjustments: If the lisp persists, consult your orthodontist. They can make slight adjustments to the braces that might alleviate the issue.
Time and Patience: Remember that the lisp is often temporary as your mouth adjusts to the braces. Over time, as you become accustomed to the changes, your speech should improve.

Can braces fix a lisp?

Yes, braces can address certain types of lisps if they result from dental misalignments. For instance, a significant overbite or gaps between the front teeth can alter tongue positioning during speech, leading to a lisp. By correcting these dental issues, braces can help improve speech clarity. However, when braces are first applied, they may temporarily cause a lisp as the mouth adjusts to the new structure. It’s important to note that not all lisps are due to dental problems. Some are developmental or have other causes. If considering braces to correct a lisp, consultation with both an orthodontist and a speech therapist is advisable.

Do you get a lisp with Invisalign?

While Invisalign aligners are generally less likely to cause lisps compared to traditional braces, some individuals might still experience slight changes in their speech during the initial adjustment period. Invisalign aligners are designed to fit closely to your teeth and are made of smooth plastic, which can minimize interference with tongue movements. However, because aligners create a slight change in your oral anatomy, it might take a short while for your tongue to adapt, potentially causing a temporary lisp. As you become accustomed to wearing the aligners, any speech changes should improve.

How to get rid of an Invisalign lisp?

To reduce or eliminate an Invisalign-induced lisp:
Practice Speaking: Engage in frequent speech exercises to help your tongue adapt to the aligners. Read aloud, repeat challenging words, and converse more to build comfort.
Slow and Clear Speech: Speak deliberately, focusing on enunciating words clearly. This can minimize the effects of the aligners on your speech.
Overarticulate: Overemphasize sounds and syllables to help your tongue navigate the aligners more effectively.
Hydration: Stay well-hydrated to prevent dry mouth, which can affect speech. Chewing sugar-free gum or drinking water can help.
Time and Patience: Give yourself time to adjust. Your speech should improve as your tongue becomes accustomed to the aligners.
Consult Your Provider: If the lisp persists, consult your Invisalign provider for guidance and adjustments.

Sources

Nedwed, V., Miethke, R. R., Motivation, acceptance and problems of invisalign patients, J Orofac Orthop., 2005; DOI: 10.1007/s00056-005-0429-0. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15827703/

Paley, J. S., Cisneros, G. J., Nicolay, O. F., LeBlanc, E. M.; Effects of fixed labial orthodontic appliances on speech sound production. Angle orthodontist. 2016;86(3):462-7. DOI: 10.2319/052415-351.1 Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8601745/

Papageorgiou, S. N., Gölz, L., Jäger, A., Eliades, T., Bourauel, C., Lingual vs. labial fixed orthodontic appliances: systematic review and meta-analysis of treatment effects. Eur J Oral Sci. 2016;124(2):105-18. DOI: 10.1111/eos.12250. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26916846/

Speech and orthodontic appliances: a systematic literature review. The European Journal of Orthodontics 40(1). 2017. DOI: 10.1093/ejo/cjx023. Available online at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316690631

Iza Wojnarowski

Content contributor

Iza is a dedicated content contributor for Toothific. Having worn braces twice and currently using Invisalign to correct a mild overbite, Iza brings a unique perspective to her writing. She spends her time staying updated on the latest dental trends and treatments, ensuring her readers have the most current information for their dental care needs.

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