In most instances, babies begin to make vowel sounds as early as 2-3 months. As a parent, your delight and response to them is an important way to create an affectionate bond and encourage speech development. Although you can usually expect proficiency with vowels by the time your child is finished teething, consonant sounds are more difficult, and commonly not mastered entirely until around age eight.
However, because early childhood speech problems can emerge rapidly, we encourage parents to always listen closely not just to what their children say, but how they say it. In our practice we commonly see speech problems affected by dental issues. These include mispronouncing Ts and Ds, tongue thrusting (reverse swallowing), lisping, and the inability to produce the S, Z, SH, CH, and J sounds.
Thumb-sucking, pacifiers, and even sippy cups may cause alignment problems that affect teeth, appearance, and a malformation of the roof of the mouth. The tongue is one of the strongest muscles in the body and helps to form a proper palatal structure, but if its job is replaced by a pacifier or bottle, a high narrow palate can form instead.
Malocclusion usually corrects itself if thumb-sucking stops early enough (we suggest as close to age one as possible), but the longer it continues, the more likely it is that treatment will be needed to correct any resulting dental problems. We often work with a team that includes a orthodontist, and an oral surgeon to detect, treat, and correct dentally related speech problems.
Bringing your children in for regular dental checkups is your primary defense against ongoing speech impediments, and while we usually recommend age seven for an orthodontic evaluation, for oral health issues and dentally related speech problems, the earlier the evaluation the better. We encourage you to call if you have any questions.
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