For some patients with clear dental aligners, the placement over the teeth can cause some issues with moving the tongue normally. This, in turn, can impact speech and cause problems talking. In one study, a little over half of users -- 54 percent -- said they experienced some speech impairment when they first used dental aligners.

Fortunately, the problem is usually temporary. In fact, 93 percent of all wearers report that they either had no issues or quickly returned to normal speech patterns. Here are some commonly asked questions about Invisalign and how it impacts speech.

Who tends to be affected most by speech difficulties? 

There is no set type of patient who will have trouble with speaking while wearing Invisalign. Sometimes children or teens who have the aligners may struggle a little more than adults, but not always. Generally, the same patients who are sensitive to the addition of an aligner against their teeth would also experience difficulties with traditional orthodontic treatment like metal braces.

What types of speech issues do dental aligners typically cause?

For most patients, saying hard consonants or consonant combinations can be challenging at first. Any combination where you would normally position your tongue on your hard palate just behind your front teeth may sound like you are speaking with a slight lisp initially. Common issues are with the sounds ch, th, j and s. 

How can you overcome issues with a lisp?

For most patients, practice is key. Read a book out loud or have a long conversation with a friend while you consciously work on correct pronunciation. Many patients report that it only takes a few hours to a week to enunciate properly again.

Will speech problems happen with each new set of aligners?

Invisalign patients usually change to a new aligner every two to three weeks. Fortunately, the process of overcoming any speech problems only has to be managed with the first set of aligners. There isn't enough of a change between aligners, at least as far as it impacts your tongue's ability to touch the back of your front teeth. Once you've learned how to position your tongue to take into account the added bulk of the aligner, you won't have to re-learn it with each new set.

The bottom line is that dental aligners are like anything you put in your mouth -- challenging to get used to at first, but no problem once you put forth the effort to make an adjustment. Talk to your dentist about whether Invisalign is the right option for you.