Abnormal Jaw Development and Its Impact on Speech
Written by Dr. Marina Gonchar
Abnormal jaw development, or dentofacial disharmony, is a condition in which the upper and lower jaws are not properly aligned either in length, width, or a combination of both. This is often the result of genetics, traumatic injuries, or birth defects.
Abnormal jaw development can have a significant impact on speech. The jaw bones are crucial in supporting the muscles and structures of the mouth, necessary for speech production. Misalignment of the jaw bones can interfere with the movement of the tongue, lips, and cheeks, resulting in speech difficulties and abnormalities. In addition to speech problems, abnormal jaw development can also result in difficulty chewing, swallowing, and breathing.
Common abnormalities seen in jaw development are:
Micrognathia-a condition in which the lower jaw is too small and can result in difficulties in producing consonants that require the tongue to touch the lower teeth, e.g. "t' and "d' sounds.
Macrognathia-a condition in which the lower jaw is too large and can result in difficulties in producing consonants that require the tongue to touch the upper teeth, e.g. "s" and "z" sounds.
Open bite-a condition in which the upper and lower teeth do not overlap when the mouth is closed and can result in difficulties in producing consonants that require the lips to close, e.g. "b" and "p" sounds.
Crossbite-a condition in which some of the upper teeth fit inside the lower teeth and can result in difficulties in producing consonants that require the tongue to fit between the upper and lower teeth, e.g. "l" and "t" sounds.
Common speech problems that can be caused by abnormal jaw development are:
Articulation disorder-a condition that results in difficulty in producing certain speech sounds due to the mal-position of the jaws resulting in improper tongue posture for proper sound articulation.
Resonance disorders-a condition that may alter the voice sounds produced (e.g. nasal speech) as a result of improper position of the jaws and improper air circulation through the nose instead of the mouth during speech production.
Fluency disorders- a condition that involves stuttering or interrupted speech as a result of a jaw abnormalities (e.g. cleft palate) because of the extra work that is involved in producing each sound to overcome the structural abnormality.
Strategies to address speech problems as a result of dentofacial disharmonies:
Patience and understanding-it is important to remember that children with abnormal jaw development and speech problems may need more time and practice to learn to speak clearly.
Practice opportunities-encourage them to talk, read, and sing to you, siblings, friends and family.
Model clear and correct speech-when speaking to your child be clear and model the proper way to articulate sounds.
Speech therapy-a speech-language pathologist can teach your child strategies for compensating for abnormal jaw development and improve their speech production.
Orthodontic treatment-have your child evaluated by an orthodontist to determine if it is possible to correct the jaw abnormalities at an early age. Correcting the structural jaw abnormalities early will help resolve disordered speech.
If you are concerned that your child may have abnormal jaw development, it is important to see a speech-language pathologist for evaluation and treatment. Treatment may involve orthodontics, surgery, or speech therapy, depending on the severity of the problem. Remember that early intervention is key for children with abnormal jaw development and speech problems.
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