Hot Topic Blog - Oral/Pharyngeal Sensory-Motor, Orofacial Myofunctional, & Airway Information
THE SILENT ORAL INFLUENCE ON YOUR CHILD'S SPEECH PRODUCTIONBy Char Boshart, MA, CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist, Author, and Instructor from Georgia
With our kids, we typically focus on mouth movement: speaking, eating, drinking, chewing, and swallowing. But, what about the times when the mouth isn’t moving: When it’s at rest? Do the in-between resting times have any influence on mouth movement? On speaking, in particular? Do we care about the mouth when it isn’t moving?
YES. Most definitely. Oral resting times can positively or negatively impact the quality of our speaking, eating, drinking, chewing, and swallowing. If the mouth is not resting properly, this can generate dental malocclusions; alter face shape and palatal shape; cause abnormal breathing patterns; impact the tongue’s placement, tone, and endurance; and more.
People of all ages have their preferred oral resting position—even infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. And, the one crucial commonality across all ages is the importance of nasal breathing: The jaw is elevated, the lips are closed, the tongue is out of sight, and the person consistently breathes through the nose (not withstanding an occasional plugged nose or two along the way as with a cold or allergy). The ideal resting posture for children and adults is: Closed Lips, Tongue Resting in the Mouth Roof, and Jaw Gently Relaxed.
So, what is the connection between the oral resting posture and oral functions? Wherever the lips, tongue, and jaw rest is where they work. The oral rest position establishes the oral operating zone.
For example, if the mouth rests open to some degree and the tongue is down (or down and forward), the tongue will access its speech contacts in that lowered position. The tongue will move horizontally (instead of vertically), or the child may move the jaw to create jaw-driven speech. This is not what we want and is an indication the tongue needs some assistance.
Keep in mind, the jaw is the primary articulator when a baby babbles early in life. The lips and cheeks work together for speech sounds involving the lips and appropriate intraoral pressure needed for good speech production. However, over time, the tongue develops into the primary articulator and the jaw (and cheeks) takes a back seat and becomes the seconday articulator.
The tongue’s position at rest is a critically important variable. It is easily influenced. Chronic thumb sucking can nail the tongue to the floor of the mouth to create horizontal tongue movements. Thumb sucking can also collapse the upper dental arch and make it narrow. A chronically plugged nose (illness, allergies, adenoids, etc.) can generate an open mouth and lowered tongue. Large tonsils in a small pharynx can displace the tongue causing a low and forward tongue position. There may be a tongue tie that influences a lowered tongue, etc., etc. You get the idea.
When we talk about speech sound development, sounds do not develop—the capability to create and contour the oral mechanism develops. Most importantly, appropriate stabilization and mobilization of the articulators helps speech develop. Let me explain.
The following is a description of what we must do to produce good speech. The oral resting posture plays an important role in the development of the following. Do know that:
-Speech takes place above the midline of the mouth within the upper dental arch (the arch that houses the top teeth). It just so happens, this top area of the mouth is also the ideal place for the tongue to rest.
-During speaking, the sides of tongue anchor to the insides of the top, back teeth. This anchorage stabilizes the tongue, so the front of the tongue can move in a small, vertical manner for: /t/, /d/, /n/, /s/, /z/, “sh,” “zh,” “ch,” “j,” and /l/, as well as the high-front and high-back vowels. The mid-tongue contracts to generate front-tongue vertical movement for the front-tongue speech sounds. This is called a tongue bowl. The front-tongue cannot lift without it.
-When the tongue is at rest, the tongue-sides also touch the top, side teeth. The tongue is at-the-ready to quickly mobilize into speech.
-The same type of stabilization occurs for the vertical back-tongue sounds: /k/, /g/, “ng”, and /r/. The back-tongue corners anchor on the area behind the top, back teeth. The mid area of the back-tongue moves in a refined manner.
Speech sounds require small, differentiated movements. And, to generate refined movements, the tongue must be near the top alveolar ridge and the palate to access them easily and quickly for speech contacts. When the tongue rests in that elevated location, it’s in its optimum operating zone.
Enhanced speech production is our final destination. Supporting good oral resting posture is one of the rest-stops to include along the way.
Boshart, C.A. (2016). The key to carryover: Change oral postures to fortify speech production. Georgia: Speech Dynamics, Inc.
Fletcher, S.G. (1992). Articulation: A physiological approach. USA: Singular Publishing Group.
Fukuta, O., Braham, R.L., Yokoi, K., & Kurosu, K. (1996). Damage to the primary dentition resulting from thumb and finger (digit) sucking. ASDC J Dent Child, 63(6), 403-407.
Gonzales Rivera, S.R., Coromica Iser, J., & Gay Escoda, C. (2004). Respiratory, orofacial, and occlusion disorders associated with adenotonsillar hypertrophy. An Otorhinolaryngol Ibero Am., 31(3), 265-282.
Palmer, J.B., & Hiiemae, K.M. (2003, Summer). Eating and breathing: Interactions between respiration and feeding of solid food. Dysphagia, 18(3), 169-178.
Yamaguchi H., & Sueishi K. (2003, May). Malocclusion associated with abnormal posture. Bull Tokyo Dent Coll, 44(2), 43-54.
About the Author
Char Boshart, M.A., CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist first became interested in the oral resting posture as an undergraduate student at Loma Linda University. Her professor, Dr. Fletcher Tarr, wrote a small book on the subject. Since that time, Char has been studying the subject and incorporating the oral resting posture into her therapy for 30+ years. She’s worked in the schools, run her own private practice, and even went back and taught a few years at Loma Linda University in southern California.
Currently, she enjoys her home with her husband in a small town in North Georgia. She continues to do seminars and in-services, as well as writes books and blogs. She recently started her practical, therapy-oriented email campaign called Therapy Matters. It’s distributed to several thousand SLPs every Tuesday. Join the crowd! Go to Char’s website: www.CharBoshart.com.