May 2, 2016


A controversial topic that often gets the blood boiling for dentists and speech specialists.

In the March edition of Scientific American Mind, there is an article discussing the topic of speech and language development in relation to pacifier use. Alison Bruderer is a neuroscientist from the University of British Columbia in Canada who took on a project published in PNAS to assess whether teething devices would affect speech and language development.

She studied 6 month old infants responses to consonant sound when they had a pacifier immobilizing the tongue versus none. She noted that having the tongue immobilized reduced the perceptual learning of the different sounds for the child.

"Before infants are able to speak, their articulatory configurations affect the way they perceive speech, suggesting that the speech production system shapes speech perception from early in life. These findings implicate oral-motor movements as more significant to speech perception development and language acquisition than current theories would assume"

What this means is that the infant needs to have unrestrained tongue movement to activate certain neural pathways that learn consonant speech. Fascinating!

This information parallels much of what we have been taught over the years. Having your tongue free of impediment makes for better speech production and now speech learning.

Give the pacifiers the kick to the curb that they need as your child approaches language learning in the early months of life.

Dr. M