This is the second post in a 2-part series that discusses issues that you can (and should!) address with an SLP before you (and/or your child) start orthodontia. Check out the first post if you haven’t already, where I talk about tongue thrust, thumb sucking, and mouth breathing.
And now, without further ado, number 4 on our list is . . .
4. Articulation issues
The primary reason to address articulation errors before braces is because the underlying cause of articulation errors is often the way the tongue moves and rests in the mouth. This is sometimes caused by oromyofacial issues like, you guessed it, tongue thrust and mouth breathing. Of particular concern are sounds that involve the teeth, such as /s, z, t, d, n, l/, sh, and zh. Correcting the speech sound means correcting the damaging tongue postures that can undo the teeth straightening of orthodontia.
This might seem like a strange one at first blush, since there seems to be no obvious correlation between something like hay fever and whether your teeth are straight. And honestly, if it really is just seasonal sniffles when the cottonwoods are blooming, then there’s no need for alarm. However, if you have a kiddo who spends most of their time stuffed up, you’ll know that they need to breathe through their mouths much of the time. As I covered in the previous post, chronic mouth breathing can bring the jaw out of alignment, thereby making orthodontia less effective in both the short and long term. Visit your pediatrician or allergist and discuss treatment options before starting any ortho work. Once you’ve got the allergies under control, check-in with your orthodontist and/or an SLP to be sure that any bad habits (like mouth breathing) are resolved, too.
6. Feeding and Swallowing Concerns
I am starting to feel like a broken record here, but hopefully the point that the way a child’s tongue and other facial muscles work together has an impact on jaw and tooth alignment is hitting home. If your child is the one who chronically makes a mess of themselves when eating and drinking, despite their age and your continued nagging, it is worth your while to consult an SLP about the way your child swallows. An abnormal swallow means that those facial muscles that I keep bringing up aren’t working well together. As will all of these issues, a little bit of help from an SLP can make a big difference in both the staying power of the orthodontia and in your child’s quality of life.
And that’s it! Once you can go down this list and say that none of them are an issue for you or your child, you can hop on the orthodontia train knowing that you have taken important steps to protect your investment in straight and beautiful teeth.
Updated 5/27/06: We now have a downloadable, printable pdf with all of this information in 1 handy spot! Click here to check it out!