What if I play a wind instrument and wear fixed braces?

If you play a wind instrument you might be worried how a fixed orthodontic brace might affect how you play.  This blog tells you what steps you can take to help you through orthodontic treatment whilst still playing your favourite instrument!

The Effect it May have on Your Performance

First off wearing a fixed brace can affect your ability to play a wind instrument, but this is most likely to be temporary problem.  Reed instrument players tend to adapt quite quickly.  Brass players usually take a bit longer (on average 1-3 months), often encountering problems playing high notes.   Research into this doesn’t show any correlation between experience of the musician and the adjustment time, but the more you practice the easier it will become.

If you are thinking about starting orthodontic treatment speak to your music teacher to make sure now is the right time, if you have important exams coming up then you may want to delay having the braces put on.   When you are ready to have the braces fitted your music teacher may be able to suggest changes to the mouthpiece of an instrument to aid playing.  For example, increasing the size of the cup-shaped mouthpiece of the cornet and trumpet may spread the load more evenly over the lips.

How can I Avoid any Discomfort?

Discomfort is generally felt by those who play instruments that require a mouthpiece pressed up against the lips, this pushes the inside of the lips into the metal brackets which can be uncomfortable but should not be painful.  We have a product called Comfort Covers which are strips of plastic shaped in a C which slides over the top of the brackets creating a smooth surface and so this should avoid the brackets pushing into the lips.

comfort-coverYou can see in this picture a small section of Comfort Cover over the top of two brackets.  The packs we sell come with 2 lengths of about 13cm of the Covers and these can be cut to whatever size you require, they can be used many times unlike wax, simply remove them wash them and store them until the next time you need it, you should replace the Cover when it becomes loose and doesn’t clean up very well.

Advice for Musicians Wearing Removable Braces

  • Removable braces can usually be removed whilst playing your instrument, however, the change in the position of the teeth and their alignment may affect your performance.
  • Ask your orthodontist if you are able to take your brace out when you play your musical instrument.
  • Tell your orthodontist how many hours you practice each day. Leaving your brace out for long periods of time might influence the success of your treatment.
  • When you are not wearing your brace, make sure you keep it in a safe place so that you don’t lose or break it, we sell boxes to store the brace in.

Advice for Musicians Wearing Fixed Braces

  • If you play a woodwind instrument such as a clarinet or saxophone, you may adjust to your new brace very quickly.
  • If you are having a new brace fitted, try to arrange this at a time when you don’t have important music exams, auditions or performances. Your music teacher should be able to advise you about important dates.
  • Some types of fixed brace may be more difficult to get used to than others. Before you start orthodontic treatment make sure your orthodontist knows that you play a wind instrument.
  • Wind instrument players sometimes get a dry mouth whilst practising or performing. Consider practising for no more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time and take regular breaks to drink plenty of water during the practice sessions or performances. Refrain from drinking fruit drinks, fizzy drinks and sugary drinks which can all damage your teeth.
  • If you have teeth removed as part of your treatment, it may be a good idea to stop playing your instrument for approximately two weeks until healing has occurred. Ask your dentist for advice.
  • When your orthodontic treatment is finished and your brace is removed it will take a little while to get used to playing without a brace, but your new tooth positions should not affect your ability to play.
  • Finally, at the end of your treatment you must wear your retainers as your orthodontist has prescribed.

Find out more about fixed braces here