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Fri 11 Jul 2008 04:00 AM

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Denture study to help smooth talkers

Brace and denture-wearers may soon be able to speak more easily, thanks to new technology geared at tracking the tongue’s hidden movement during speech.

Brace and denture-wearers may soon be able to speak more easily, thanks to new technology geared at tracking the tongue’s hidden movement during speech.

Researchers have developed dentures fitted with sensors to uncover the tongue's movement in speech production. The results may help the team design better false teeth and braces that interfere less with speech.

"The aim is to try to understand how humans are able to speak by modelling the speech-production apparatus," said Yohan Payan, a researcher at the TIMC lab near Grenoble, France, and part of the team who worked on this project.

He said that it was very difficult for them to know how much pressure is exerted by the tongue on the teeth while producing speech, for example when making a 'T' sound.

"To model this, you have to be able to estimate the level of force applied by the tongue," Payan explained.

Previously, such measurement required researchers to attach sensors to people's teeth, or embed them into an artificial palate, which hampered the normal functioning of the tongue.

To avoid this, the French team opted to hide their sensors inside dentures made for 20 edentulous volunteers. Each device had one or two sensors buried in it.

The sensors recorded tongue pressure and transmitted the information to a computer, while the sounds made by the subject were simultaneously recorded using a microphone.

To date, only results on the production of the sound 'T' have been published.

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