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Will my speech be affected by lingual braces?

Written by
27th November 2018

Annie Morrison, Voice Tutor Therapist

Annie is a voice tutor/therapist and a partner of LLOC. She is an amazing woman who knows how to train tongues! I recommend her to all patients who want to wear braces but fear a temporary lisp. How does Annie help? The first step is psychological. She helps you understand why you might feel anxious about having braces in your mouth. She explains that the reason for the anxiety dates back to an early stage in our evolution, when food and communication were critical to survival.

The neurons in the motor cortex, which influence the movements of our tongue, became highly developed. “The most specialised and complex motor activity we do is speak, “ she says.

“This is why the slightest change to the mouth, a chipped tooth or an ulcer on the tongue, can feel disproportionately troublesome. These are small changes but the tongue is on red alert. When we do anything that affects the tongue of speech it’s very destabilising at a profound level.”

If all of this sounds daunting, worry not. Annie can help. She has written a book on the topic of speech called ‘The Thinking Tongue.’  The solution, she says is to create more space in the mouth. This is done by opening up the back of the throat; then you have to isolate the tongue from the jaw and from the lips. The tongue needs to learn how to reach out to the alveolar ridge, the hard area behind your upper teeth.

Sounds difficult? It’s not when you understand what’s going on and the steps you can take with Annie’s guidance. You may find that you learn a lot about yourself while working with her.  You will learn why you hold your jaw in a particular way and develop awareness of your oral habits.

For instance, some people have a very refined sensory feedback mechanism while others find it difficult to control their tongue and will need to exercise more. And some of us can be psycho-emotionally challenged and have grown up holding everything together by clenching our teeth, which makes the muscles in the jaw very strong.

If you decide to turn to Annie for help, you will be in good company. She has been a voice coach for actors and celebrities of screen and stage. Ironically, counter to her previous work as a speech therapist helping people who stammer become fluent,

Annie has found herself teaching actors to stammer – for instance Colin Firth for his role in the King’s Speech.

She recently worked with an actress, playing an elective mute in Brian Friel’s play Translations at the National: Annie taught her how to speak for the first time in a highly charged situation, her whole face and mouth fighting to enunciate the words.

As I hinted at the outset, the question I am most likely to be asked by a new patient is: “Will my speech be affected?” The honest answer is yes. BUT, the equally important qualification is that the difficulty only lasts a short time. I encourage my patients not to let a few challenging days stand in the way of the years of benefit that result from a orthodontic treatment.

If you need to consult Annie, you will probably need two therapy sessions with her. I am very confident that this will be time well spent.

 


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