Glossary of Terms

A - D | E - L | M - O | P - R | S - Z


Aleveolar Ridge – The bony ridge of the maxilla and mandible containing the teeth.

Articulation – The process of forming speech sounds.

Articulation Test – An evaluation which provides information about how speech sounds are formed.

Audiogram – A record of hearing levels or sensitivity.

Audiologist – A person with a degree, license, and certification in audiology (science of hearing) who measures hearing, identifies hearing loss, and participates in rehabilitation of hearing impairment.


Bilateral Cleft – A cleft that occurs on both sides of the lip.


Columela – The central, lower portion of the nose which divides the nostrils into the right and left.

Communication Disorder – An interference with a person’s ability to comprehend other or express themselves (usually in verbal form).

Complete Cleft - A cleft that extends through the entire affected mouth structure.

Comprehension – Knowledge or understanding of spoken or written language.

Congenital – A disease, deformity, or deficiency existing at the time of birth.

Craniofacial Anomaly – A visible, structural and/or functional difference affecting the head (cranium) and/or face.

Crossbite – A dental condition where the upper teeth are behind the lower teeth rather than in front of them.


Denasality – The quality of voice that lacks normal nasal resonance for /m /n/ ng (“head cold” sound).

Dental Arch – The curved shape formed by the teeth in their normal position.

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Eardrum – Tympanic membrane which vibrates and transmits sound to the middle ear.

E.N.T. – The abbreviation for ear, nose, and throat.

Eustachian Tube – The air duct which connects the nasopharynx (back of the throat) with the middle ear; usually closed at one end, opens with yawning and swallowing’ allows ventilation of the middle ear cavity and equalization of pressure on two sides of the eardrum.

Evaluation – Assessment. Test.

Expressive Language – Communication of one’s idea, desires intentions to others, usually through speech or printed words.


Fistula – An abnormal opening.


Genetics – The science of heredity (how things pass from one generation to the next).


Hard Palate – The front part of the roof of the mouth containing bone covered by mucosa (pink “skin”).

Hearing Impairment – A loss in hearing which may range from mild loss to complete deafness.

Heredity – The total of the physical characteristics, abilities, and potentialities genetically derived from one’s ancestors.

Hypernasality – Greater than normal resonance or vocal tone heard during speech (escape of sound or noise through the nose).

HyponasalityDenasality. A lack of normal nasal resonance during speech.


Language Disorder or Impairment – In ability to communicate normally and effectively due to problems with comprehension or expression of language.

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Malocclusion – A deviation from normal occlusion, that is, incorrect positioning of the upper teeth in relation to the lower teeth.

Mandible – The lower jaw.

Maxilla – The upper jaw.

Middle Ear – The portion of the ear behind the eardrum. It contains three small bones which transfer sound fro the eardrum to the inner ear.

Myringotomy – A minor surgical procedure in which a small slit is made in the eardrum to allow fluid to drain from the middle ear.


Nasal Emission or Nasal Escape – An abnormal flow of air through the nose during speech. Usually indicative of an incomplete seal between oral and nasal cavities.

Nasal Septum – The “wall” that divides the nose into right an left halves. It normally joins the roof of the hard palate like an “inverted T”.

Nasopharyngoscope – A lighted telescopic instrument used for examining the passages in the back of the throat. Useful in assessing velopharyngeal function.


Occlusion – Relationship between upper and lower teeth when they are in contact. Refers to alignment of teeth as well as relationship of dental arches.

Oral Cavity – The mouth bounded by the teeth in front and soft palate at the back.

Oral Hygiene – Care of the teeth and gums which is performed at home on a daily basis. This is performed first by the child’s parent or guardian while the child is small and eventually by the child under continued supervision of the parent or guardian.

Oral-Maxillofacial Surgery – The specialty of dentistry concerned with management of dental and skeletal deformities.

Orofacial – Relating to the mouth or face.

Orthodontics – The specialty of dentistry concerned with the correction and prevention of irregularities and malocclusion of the teeth and jaws.

Otitis Media – Inflammation of the middle ear with accumulation of thick, mucous-like fluid.

Otolaryngologist – An “ear, nose, and throat” physician specializing in the diagnosis and management of head and neck disorders.

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Palatal Insufficiency – A lack or shortness of tissue that prevents the soft palate from contacting the back of the throat (pharynx).

Palate – The roof of the mouth including the front portion, or hard palate, and the back portion, or soft palate (also called velum).

Pediatrician – A physician specializing in treatment of children.

Pediatric Dentistry – The specialty of dentistry concerned with the care of children’s teeth.

Philtral Columns – Normal ridges in the skin of the central upper lip connecting the peaks of the Cupid’s bow to the back of the nose.

Pierre Robin Sequence – A birth condition that involves the lower jaw being either small in size (micrognathic) or set back from the upper jaw (retrognathic).

Premaxilla – The small bone in the upper jaw which contains the upper four front teeth. Normally connected with the side segments of the upper jaw (maxilla) but not separated in some clefts.

Preventative Dental Care – Regular dental visits during which teeth are checked for cavities and cleaned.

Prolabium – The central area of the upper lip beneath the center of the nose (columella) and between the philtral columns.

Prosthesis – An artificial substitute for missing body part.

Prosthetic Speech Aid – A removable plastic appliance which provides a structural means of achieving velopharyngeal closure (separating the nose from the mouth).

Prosthodontist – A dentist who specializes in providing prosthetic appliance for oral structures.

Psychologist – An individual with the necessary academic training and experience to be licensed to practice psychology as a profession.


Radiography – Photographic film or plate depicting images of internal body parts. X-ray.

Resonance – Vocal quality associated with the vibration of air in the oral and nasal cavities.

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Soft Palate – The back part of the roof of the mouth containing muscles and mucosa (pink “skin”). The Latin name for the soft palate is velum.

Speech-Language Pathologist – An individual with the necessary academic training and experience to be certified or licensed to diagnose and treat disorders of speech, language, and communication.

Speech Defect – Deviation of speech from the range of normal.

Speech Videofluoroscopy – A tape recorded x-ray examination of speech mechanism during function, focusing on the soft palate (velum) and walls of the throat (pharynx). Useful in assessing velopharyngeal function.

Sphincter Pharyngoplasty – Surgical procedure designed to minimize hypernasality.

Surgery – One of several medical specialties focused on the restoration and repair of various external defects.


Treacher Collins Syndrome (Mandibulofacial Dysostosis) -

Tympanic Membrane – a thin membrane that separates the external ear from the middle ear. Its function is to transmit sound from the air to the ossicles inside the middle ear.

Tympanogram – Tympanometry is a test used to detect disorders of the middle air. Air pressure in the ear canal is varied to test the condition and mobility (movement) of the ear drum (tympanic membrane).


Unilateral Cleft – a cleft that occurs only on the right or left side.

Uvula – Small, cone-shaped muscular process hanging at the back of the soft palate.


Velopharyngeal Closure – The closing of the nasal cavity from the oral cavity which directs air used in speech through the mouth rather than the nose. It requires interaction of the muscles in the palate and the back of the throat.

Velopharyngeal Incompetence – Inability to achieve adequate velopharyngeal closure despite structures that may appear normal.

Velopharyngeal Insufficiency – A structural or functional disorder resulting in the inability to achieve adequate separation of the nasal and oral cavities.

Velum – The Latin name for the soft palate.

Voice Disorder – Speech problems such as hoarseness, low speaking volume, or strained voice quality.

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