Putty Bite Blocks

By Pam Marshalla

Q: I recently read an article that indicated bite blocks could be made from dental impression compound. Have you heard of this or tried doing it? Do you have any suggestions on how this could be accomplished, the efficacy of doing it, and the material that would suit the job best?

I have not used this method myself, but James Dworkin wrote about it in 1991. Dworkin came out of the Darley, Aaronson, and Brown school of thought on motor speech disorders (see references below). Dworkin calls it “putty.” There are several brands I found by web-searching “impression compounds.” When you use these compounds, you are able to make a rubber-like block that is formed perfectly to a client’s molars on one side or the other.

I have watched Jim do this, and the process goes fairly quickly. The compound is soft at first. You roll it into a ball, stick it like an ice pop to the end of a tongue depressor or other stick, and then you put the wad in the client’s mouth between his molars on one side. The client bites down for a few seconds, and then opens up so you can pull it out. You let it set for just a minute or so I think, and then…voila! You have a perfectly fitting bite block on a stick that fits your client’s dentition perfectly.

Somehow the product does not stick to the teeth, but it does adhere to the tongue depressor. Dworkin also made these by pressing the compound onto the middle of a piece of string. This results in a bead-like block in the middle of a string. The wad cannot come off the string.

A block like that is large and best used to prop the mouth open wide to work on gross tongue movements and tongue-jaw differentiation. A block like that is much too wide to stabilize the jaw in a high position for working on the sibilants, however. (Even a tongue depressor on its side is too wide for that kind of work.)

I have never used this method because I thought it would take up too much time when working with kids. Jim worked with adults.

I must assume that all these products are sterile since they are marketed to and used by dentists. I also believe that these products have virtually no taste. The only ethical problem I can see in using this method is if you work in a setting where you are forbidden to put anything into a client’s mouth. The only logistical problem I see is a client who does not want to put it in his mouth because he views it as “icky” or if he generally cannot handle oral-tactile stimulation of any kind.


  • Darley, F. L., & Aronson, A. E., & Brown, J. R. (1975) Motor Speech Disorders. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.
  • Dworkin, J. P. (1991) Motor Speech Disorders: A Treatment Guide. St. Louis: Mosby.

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