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All About Jaw Sliding - What is it? And What Does it Impact?

When a person is speaking or eating, we expect them to have a strong and stable jaw at midline. But this isn’t true for everyone! Jaw sliding is when the jaw moves from side to side or forward in the mouth during speaking and eating. It causes the tongue to move out of alignment with the palate leading to distorted production of speech sounds as well as difficulty controlling and moving food inside the mouth. Jaw sliding can be caused by inefficient tone and control resulting in decreased stability.

It is normal and expected for our little ones to drool up to 18-24 months of age because the muscles of their jaw, lips, and tongue have not yet fully developed. However, over time, we expect those muscles to become stronger, allowing us to control these articulators. Jaw sliding can lead to a limited ability to control and stabilize the jaw, which can result in an open mouth posture, increased pooling of saliva, and drooling.

In order to properly articulate speech sounds, the jaw and the tongue must be at midline and lie symmetrically. Our jaw muscles help control jaw closing and opening in an up and down motion; our jaw is not meant to move left and right when speaking. The ability to correctly produce speech sounds alone and in connected speech is dependent on the ability to maintain a strong and stable jaw when talking, and strengthening these muscles will help you speak more clearly and directly.

Jaw sliding can affect the production of many speech sounds, such as high frequency sounds p, b,m, f, v, s, z, and r. Since the tongue is pulling laterally away from midline alignment, the speech sound, or sounds, will have a distorted quality. For example, if the tongue is sliding left and right as you speak, it may result in a lateral lisp and unclear, slushy speech.

In addition to speech sounds, jaw sliding can impact eating and drinking. The muscles of the cheeks, lips, and tongue work together to control, move, and consume all types of foods and liquids safely and with control. Jaw sliding can impact the ability for these muscles to work together leading to difficulty controlling liquids. This can result in spillage due to misalignment and incoordination, as well as difficulty with continuous suction needed during bottle feeding in infants and toddlers.

Jaw stability plays a major role in speech sound production and feeding success. Jaw strengthening exercises are an important part of speech therapy for children with jaw muscle weakness. If you have concerns of jaw sliding for your child, a comprehensive evaluation and treatment plan with a speech language pathologist can help improve jaw stability at midline and coordination of the articulators. Have more questions? Interested in scheduling an evaluation? We can help! Reach out to us today.

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