For some people, wearing braces can be challenging if they play a musical instrument like the trombone, trumpet, or a wind instrument. Braces may interfere with reaching some notes when you first get them on. But don’t be too alarmed as there are solutions to help make the process easier.
Playing an instrument with braces presents a whole new challenge to the musician. They must learn how to adjust their lipping technique, formally known as the embouchure. The embouchure is the term used to describe the shaping of lips, tongue, and teeth to the mouthpiece of an instrument. Unfortunately, the most common age to get braces is when you are a teenager, and this also coincides with the age that young musicians are developing their embouchure. The problem is that the lipping technique is the vital component of achieving notes, especially the high notes, and braces alter how the musician interacts with the mouthpiece.
So what can a young musician do to adjust to playing an instrument with braces? The first and most important step is to consider your options. Wearing braces is an elective procedure, and as such, you always have the time to choose how you want to proceed and when you want to have your braces fitted. The type of braces you choose can make a huge difference in comfort and embouchure.
Playing wind instruments while wearing braces can present a few challenges, but it depends on the type of wind instrument you play. For example, if you play the flute, your lips don’t actually come into contact with the reed, which means that your braces may have little effect on how you play, depending on how they interfere with your tongue. But with other wind instruments such as the clarinet, oboe, or any instrument that uses a single or double reed, you will find that it takes some time to adjust the reed into a new position. You may also find an increase in saliva, which means you will need to clean your instrument more frequently.
Playing brass instruments while wearing braces may be more difficult. Playing brass instruments places more pressure on the teeth. To reach the notes, young musicians press hard against the lips and teeth, and wearing braces can make this painful. Wearing braces and playing the trumpet can prove to be particularly challenging. Playing the trumpet places a lot of pressure on the lips, and pressing against metal wires can cause lip bleeding and bruising, teeth fatigue, and it can even cause scar damage to the tissue on the fleshy part of the lip.
Invisalign is a wonderful alternative to wearing metal braces. The snug fitting aligners ensure that only minor adjustments are needed to play your instrument - there are no metal wires to cause discomfort or interfere with lipping. And, if necessary, the Invisalign aligners can be removed during practice and play, which means there is no need to adjust how you play your instrument. Just be careful as not wearing them often will slow your progress!
If you have decided to get fitted for braces, there are a few tips that can help make the process easier and more comfortable.
1. Talk to Dr. Scramstad. Tell him what instrument you play and discuss your concerns. We will be able to offer solutions.
2. Use dental wax on your braces and wires. Using dental wax may help you avoid discomfort from jabbing wires.
3. Practice. Practice. Practice. All music teachers agree that musicians who wear braces can adjust their embouchure and play just as well as they did before braces.
4. When you decide to get fitted for braces, make sure you don’t have a concert or exam in the near future. This will give you time to adjust without the stress of preparing for a performance.
Most young musicians exert a lot of pressure on the teeth with the mouthpiece, but professional musicians must learn to exert less pressure otherwise long hours of practice and performance would be unsustainable.
So, even though wearing braces may be a hindrance to the young musician in the short term, in the long term, it may help them gain the habits of a professional faster than their peers.
So, to all young musicians who need braces, don’t be discouraged. All music teachers agree that it just takes time and practice to adjust to wearing braces. And we all know that the musicians who practice most, perform best...
...and have a big beautiful, joyful smile.