Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Introduction: Rapid palatal expanders (RPEs) are a commonly used orthodontic adjunct for the treatment of posterior crossbites. RPEs are cemented to bilateral posterior teeth across the palate and thus may interfere with proper tongue movement and linguopalatal contact. The purpose of this study was to identify what specific role RPEs have on speech sound production for the child and early adolescent orthodontic patient. Materials and Methods: RPEs were treatment planned for patients seeking orthodontics at Marquette University. Speech recordings were made using a phonetically balanced reading passage (“The Caterpillar”) at 3 time points: 1) before RPE placement; 2) immediately after cementation; and 3) 10-14 days post appliance delivery. Measures of vocal tract resonance (formant center frequencies) were obtained for vowels and measures of noise distribution (spectral moments) were obtained for consonants. Two-way repeated measures (ANOVA) was used along with post-hoc tests for statistical analysis. Results: For the vowel /i/, the first formant increased and the second formant decreased indicating a more inferior and posterior tongue position. For /e/, only the second formant decreased resulting in a more posterior tongue position. The formants did not return to baseline within the two-week study period. For the fricatives /s/, //, /t/, and /k/, a significant shift from high to low frequencies indicated distortion upon appliance placement. Of these, only /t/ fully returned to baseline during the study period. Conclusion: Numerous phonemes were distorted upon RPE placement which indicated altered speech sound production. For most phonemes, it takes longer than two weeks for speech to return to baseline, if at all. Clinically, the results of this study will help with pre-treatment and interdisciplinary counseling for orthodontic patients receiving palatal expanders.