How do our teeth facilitate speech?

The entire oral cavity (our mouth) works together in many ways to help us function. In addition to affecting our facial shape and appearance, the structures of our mouth enable us to chew, swallow, and digest our food. And it is our lips, tongue, and teeth working in conjunction with our vocal tract that allow us to form and articulate the sounds of letters and words. Taking even one of these out of the loop affects the way we speak. 

It might seem as if speech is effortless, but it is extremely complex and requires precision, timing, and a great deal of muscle control. The parts of the mouth need to smoothly work together. An example would be the letter “f.” The front teeth need to bite down on the lip to force your air source to produce the sound. Misaligned or missing teeth will cause distortion of the sound. Other strident sounds, such as “th” and “ch,” also require the friction caused by the tongue, lips, and teeth working together to form correctly. If there are issues with any one of the parts, speech can become unintelligible. 

There may be some concern over a child’s speech development during the time the “baby” teeth fall out and the adult teeth grow in. Studies have shown, however, that typically if the child articulates the sounds properly before the tooth loss, then he or she will articulate properly when the adult tooth has grown in. 

Misshapen or missing teeth, or jaw problems can interfere with eating and your speech. Fortunately, these issues can usually be treated to help restore proper speech.



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