Which teeth play an important role in speech? What if you lose one?

Next time that you want to open your mouth and speak, just pay attention to your words and how you say them. Which teeth play an important role in speech? As you see, you don’t just use your tongue but also your teeth and lips to produce those words and the sounds that make them. We usually think teeth only have a role in digestion, such as eating and chewing food. But it seems like our pearly whites play another vital role as well. Speech is one of the main ways of communication, and our pearly whites are a crucial part of it. Now, this brings us to this question:

Does Missing Teeth Affect Articulation?

If you’re wondering which teeth play an important role in speech, you may be curious about missing teeth. Yes, missing teeth can cause articulation difficulties and can have major effects on your speech and your social life.

Not only do we use our mouth, lips, and tongue, but we also use multiple of our teeth to create specific sounds when it comes to speaking. Strident sounds such as ‘th’, ‘z’, ‘f’, ‘s’, and ‘v’ are produced using our teeth.

Try saying, “Thanks so much for the food” without your upper and lower teeth touching any part of your mouth, lips, or tongue. Not easy to pronounce, is it?

Now you might be wondering which teeth play an important part in speech. What if someone is missing their front teeth? How will that affect their speech? Of course, it changes the way they speak, but it also depends on which front tooth is missing.

Now, this brings us to the next part of our article, which is

Missing Front Teeth

When we say front teeth, we are referring to the four incisors, whether upper or lower. The middle two incisors are mainly used for making strident sounds such as ‘s’, ‘z’, ‘f’, ‘j’, ‘ch’, and ‘th‘, so if those are missing, you will have a more pronounced speech impediment. So pronouncing words like ‘feet’, ‘teeth’, ‘zoo’, ‘chair’, and ‘job’ could be more challenging. The outer incisors have a less pronounced effect on your speech.

Missing Molar Teeth

Molars are placed in the back of the jaw and are not involved in speaking. But losing or missing molars can still affect your jaw structure, bone density, and gum health. All of that can lead to slurred speech and not being able to make certain sounds.

Missing Premolar Teeth

Premolar teeth are the ones between your molars and front teeth. They also won’t affect your speech in a major way. But in the same way that we mentioned, it can lead to speech problems in the long term by affecting your oral health and gum tissue.

Now you see which teeth play an important role in speech! Yes, our front teeth seem the most important, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need the rest of them!

Do Crooked Teeth Affect Speech?

Yes, they do. Crooked teeth are not just a cosmetic problem. As we mentioned in the previous sections, teeth play an essential role in your speaking. Crooked teeth can cause a lisp or whistling while speaking, which adds difficulty to understanding and articulating.

What Can You Do If You Lose A Tooth?

Now that you know why and which teeth play an important role in speech, you may want to fix your situation. Losing a tooth can be devastating, and it could happen whether you have good oral hygiene or not. Even with good oral hygiene, car or sporting accidents can cause tooth loss. Of course, it is less likely for someone to lose a tooth if they take care of their oral hygiene. But what if you do lose a tooth? Is it the end of the world? No, it isn’t! You can easily contact us to ask about treatments and book a consultation!

How does a bite problem affect your speech?

Bite refers to the relationship between your upper and lower teeth and how they sit together when your jaw is resting. Now, a bad bite can affect your speech. Since we have different types of bites, we are only mentioning the bites that have a direct effect on speech.

  • Overbite and open bite: When the upper teeth are way over the lower teeth is called an overbite. Overbite usually appears with crowded teeth in front of the upper teeth. This kind of misaligned teeth can cause difficulty in pronouncing the sounds such as ‘s’, ‘z’, or ‘zh‘ (sound of s in pleasure) and ‘th’ sounds as well. This is also known as a lisp. A lisp can also happen with an open bite when the front teeth don’t reach each other when the jaw is at rest.
  • Underbite: If the lower teeth are over, the upper teeth are called an underbite. With an underbite, there might be tongue restriction because of a lack of room limiting its movement. This can cause slurring or whistling.
  • Crossbite: This dental problem might seem similar to an overbite, but unlike an overbite, crossbite usually involves a few teeth going behind the lower teeth. The speech problem that could happen with a crossbite is the pronunciation of the sounds ‘t’, ‘n’, and ‘d’.

How do orthodontic treatments affect your speech?

In order to fix those dental problems mentioned above, you can go to a dental care center. After your consultation with your dentist, they will tell you the best course of action that can fix your problem. These treatments can include Invisalign, braces, and retainers. There might be other treatments, but it is best to ask your dentist about them. Here we will only cover the most common ones.

Add more treatments below if needed.

Does Invisalign affect your speech?

Yes, but not in a very obvious way. The goal of using Invisalign is to have straight teeth and can correct your bite over time. Invisalign is made out of transparent plastic, and it’s particularly thin. So you wouldn’t have that many difficulties with speech, but it might take you a few days to adjust to it in your mouth and wear it almost the whole entire day. During the adjustment time, you might have a slight problem making the ‘s’,sh‘, or ‘z’ sounds. Even after you are done with your Invisalign and not using it anymore, you will need to adjust to the new position of your teeth in your mouth. That wouldn’t take that long, but it might feel weird for a while!

Do braces affect your speech?

Yes, orthodontic braces can affect your speech. Braces are an orthodontic treatment mostly used for permanent teeth to help get them to an optimal alignment. Since more parts are used while wearing braces, it can affect your mouth and speech more. After each dental visit, you might feel some pain and discomfort in your cheeks, tongue, and even jaw joints. Of course, this is totally normal! So during that adaptation time, you might have difficulty chewing hard foods and pronouncing words. Even after taking out your braces, your whole mouth and face will feel different, and getting used to the new positions of your teeth can feel off. But give it time, and you will see how your speech has changed and hopefully improved.

Does a retainer affect your speech?

Yes, it does. Retainers are usually used after you are done with your braces and are custom-made to hold your newly positioned teeth in the correct place. Since retainers are external devices, they can affect your speech, but it will only last a few days until you get used to them. In those few days, you might have a slight lisp which means trouble pronouncing letters ‘s’ and ‘z’. After your mouth and tongue get used to the retainer, your problem will most probably go away.

Now we know going to the dentist and getting your teeth fixed is not the most fun you can have, but oral health benefits outweigh that minor discomfort during your visit. So we are here to take care of you!

Contact us and book your consultation!

At Dentfix, we are trying to bring you the most up-to-date dental health knowledge and our patient the best care possible!

Bommangoudar JS, Chandrashekhar S, Shetty S, Sidral S. Pedodontist’s Role in Managing Speech Impairments Due to Structural Imperfections and Oral Habits: A Literature Review. Int J Clin Pediatr Dent. 2020;13(1):85-90. doi:10.5005/jp-journals-10005-1745 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7299882/
Johnson NC, Sandy JR. Tooth position and speech–is there a relationship?. Angle Orthod. 1999;69(4):306-310.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10456597/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0002941662900350
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/353937203
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