High-arched palate refers to when the hard palate or roof of the mouth is narrow and tall. The structure of the mouth develops rapidly in-utero and continues to form during the first year of life. High-arched palate can be a congenital condition that is present from birth. They can also develop after birth due to certain behaviours.
Mouth breathing, chronic and excessive thumb sucking or use of dummies and pacifiers can contribute to the narrowing of the hard palate as well. This happens because an infant’s tongue helps to develop the shape of the roof of the mouth by filling and shape the palate. If the mouth is constantly open and the tongue is not resting in the roof of the mouth, or if something narrower such as a pacifier or thumb is resting there instead, then it will form its shape around that structure instead. This means the palate will continue to narrow and heighten instead of broadening in the shape of the tongue.
Symptoms of a high-arched palate
- Feeding difficulty: In order for babies to feed through a bottle or breast, a suction seal needs to be made between the mouth and nipple or teat. High-arched palates make it difficult to create this suction and this is often the first signs of high arched palates.
- Nasal breathing: If the palate is too tall then it moves into the space of the nose. This means that the nasal passage becomes smaller than it should be, causing the individual to breathe through their mouth.
- Nasal congestion: Breathing through the nose means less filtering of the air which increases the risk of infection.
- Sleep difficulties: High arched palates can cause snoring due to difficulty nose breathing.
- Speech difficulties: Individuals may have difficulty producing certain speech sounds that require the upper palate to make contact with the tongue such as the ‘s’ and ‘sh’ sounds.
- Structural changes: narrowing between the eyes and a down-turned mouth can occur due to these internal changes happening within the skull.
- Poor oral health: High-arched palate can cause swollen gums and crowding of the teeth due to a narrowed mouth.
Treatment for a high-arched palate
- Myofunctional therapy: This is a branch of therapy done by Speech Pathologist which uses tongue-repositioning exercises to strengthen and retrain the tongue to return to its natural position.
- Dental and Orthodontic Intervention: Depending on the state of the child’s teeth, they may need to have a plate or expander placed to extend the palate and allow room for the tongue.
- Oral-maxillofacial surgery: As a last resort for people experiencing significant speech or respiratory issues caused by the high arched palate, oral-maxillofacial surgery can be done to expand the palate.
These therapies can assist in speeding up the time taken to correct speech sounds in therapy. Often they are done in conjunction with speech therapy and work together to eliminate any speech errors present.
Contact us for results focused speech therapy
This article was written by our Speech Pathologist Ashleigh Fattah who is a Speech Pathology Australia member. If you have speech pathology related questions, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with simple and effective therapy targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.
• Govardhan C, Murdock J, Norouz-Knutsen L, Valcu-Pinkerton S, Zaghi S. (2019) Lingual and Maxillary Labial Frenuloplasty with Myofunctional Therapy as a Treatment for Mouth Breathing and Snoring. Case Rep Otolaryngology. pubmed link
• Wishney M, Darendeliler M, Dalci O. (2019) Myofunctional therapy and prefabricated functional appliances: an overview of the history and evidence. Aust Dent J. 2019 Jun;64(2):135-144. pubmed link