When your child develops a speech impairment, where should you take them for treatment? It really depends on the speech impairment. Many types of speech impairment are related to the articulation of certain patterns of speech, and while a speech therapist might feature in your child's future, you should also consider scheduling an appointment with your family dentist. But how can your dentist actually help?
A Naturally Lost Tooth
Sometimes the correlation between your child's teeth and any changes to their speech can be quite clear. When your child has lost a primary tooth and is awaiting the development of their permanent tooth, their speech might be altered. This isn't anything to be concerned about, and the issue will generally cease to exist once the replacement tooth has grown.
A Prematurely Lost Tooth
A speech impairment attributable to a missing tooth can require dental intervention if your child prematurely lost that primary tooth, whether it was due to periodontal disease or an accident. This can result in a disruption to their normal speech, and a prosthetic replacement can be helpful while the adult tooth develops. This can be a partial denture or an orthodontic space maintainer. A general dentist can make this assessment, and an x-ray will be required to chart the progress of the emerging permanent tooth.
It's not only missing teeth that can affect a child's speech. Many vocalizations rely on the tongue coming into contact with the teeth, and when these teeth are misaligned, the subsequent vocalization can be irregular. Some speech impairments can be corrected with orthodontics (braces) that align your child's teeth. This helps to correct a number of common problems, such as an interdental lisp, which can be addressed by closing the gap between your child's upper central incisors.
In some cases, your child's teeth might be intact and aligned, but your child still might be experiencing a speech impairment related to their dental health. When your child's teeth are overcrowded in their jaw, jaw surgery might be recommended. This won't be performed while your child is young and is generally delayed until your child is in their late teens and their jaw has stopped growing. The surgery involves the jaw bone being cut and moved forward to expand its length. It's then held in place with screws to hold it in the correct position while it heals.
In many instances, a dentist can assist with a speech impairment, although your child may still require speech therapy.