Bite blocks are used to stabilize the jaw and to isolate tongue and lip movements from that of the mandible during speech and nonspeech activities. Ten normally speaking young adults produced sentences with an unconstrained jaw and with unilateral placement of 2-mm and 5-mm bite blocks. Six listeners rated sentences spoken without either bite block as the most natural sounding. Spectral characteristics of /s/, /J/ and /t/ (sibilant frication and stop bursts) differed significantly with than without bite blocks, such that mean spectral energy decreased, and variation and skew of spectral energy increased. Spectral kurtosis did not change for the group, but 2 participants exhibited highly kurtotic /s/ spectra without a bite block that normalized with bite blocks. The second formant frequency for the high vowel /i/ was lower with bite blocks; there was no systematic difference in F2 slope for diphthongs. Segmental and suprasegmental timing of speech articulation was not affected significantly by these small bite blocks. This study provides support for using small bite blocks to isolate the tongue from the jaw without large effects on speech, but cautions that speech is likely to sound less natural than when produced with an unconstrained jaw.


speech, jaw stabilization, bite block, acoustic analysis, perceptual analysis