Life

Ask The Dentist: Why talking can sometimes be tricky following teeth restoration work

Dental work can sometimes cause problems with our speech patterns, writes Lucy Stock, dentist at Gentle Dental Care in Belfast

Speech patterns can be affected following dental correction procedures, resulting in lisps and other problems
Lucy Stock

YOU really know society is all scubalidoops when people start asking for more dental treatment just so that they can stay longer at their appointment to have something to do.

Personally, since I'm a chatter, I'm loving how everyone wants to chat more at their appointments. The lockdown has spotlighted how important a good old chin-wag is – and to do this we need comfortable teeth that are easy to speak with.

Sounds a bit nuts if you've always had good teeth and never given forming words a second thought, but it can be really laborious and sometimes embarrassing if you have to constantly think about where your tongue or lips contact your teeth so that your speech is clear.

We've all probably heard someone with dentures who has a whistle when they speak or noticed an actor who has had their teeth done and suddenly their speech has changed. Even a single missing back tooth will change the airflow in someone's mouth making speech more problematic.

It's the spanner that's thrown in our conversational machine when real teeth, dentures or other restorations (like bridges or crowns) are either not in a harmonious position or balanced shape that interferes with the pronunciation of words.

Sometimes, teeth can drift forward out of position, resulting in a lisp. On other occasions, a restoration may be too long or bulky for someone to easily speak with. The speech sounds that are most problematic to patients are the 'sh', 'th' and 'f' sounds.

Normally, if a new crown or denture is placed, then a person will adapt to the new shape within a week and speech will return to normal. Speaking to yourself around the house after having dental work will speed up this process of adaptation as the brain, tongue and lips learn where the edges of the new teeth are.

On other occasions, the new teeth may need altered, sometimes by a tiny amount, to allow the tip of the tongue or the lips to rest at a slightly different place to allow word sounds to be pronounced clearly.

An improvement to the clarity of a person's speech can be rapidly improved by adjusting the position and shape of teeth so that chatting can be pleasurable once again.

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