Band Instruments and Braces

For many teenagers the thought of having to wear braces is frightening, or uncomfortable, at the very least. Teen-age egos in general are much more fragile than they like to show. At a time of great growth, change and transition, added silver (or color) as a “fashion accessory” to their smile, does little to improve their sense of security.

Great improvements have been made over the years to ease this time of discomfort. Despite those, there is ONE group of teenagers who will be affected by braces more than just cosmetically. Band members. That is, band members other than percussion players, of course.

Woodwinds generally fare better than brass players. Especially flute players will not notice too much difference in their play, since the lips come in minimal contact with the instrument. However, initial soreness  may still impact proper embouchure.

Reed players will adjust quicker than brass players also, since their mouth surrounds the mouthpiece, not the other way around. Like flutes, there may be an initial adjustment time to compensate for soreness and the changed shape in embouchure.

Brass players will experience the greatest change, since their lips press against the instrument inside a cupped mouthpiece. Tuba and trombone mouthpieces are larger, so even there the lips can stay slightly more relaxed. Trumpet and French horn players, though, may have to develop a new or adjusted blowing technique that requires less pressure, more breath and more cheek muscle work.

If your child is aware of these changes beforehand, they will not so easily become disappointed if their excellent play all of a sudden seems to turn to mediocrity. If you are planning on braces for your teen, and they are a band member, make sure you talk about music play, and how it may affect them. Also, chances are, there will be other teen-age band members who already have braces. It might be a good idea to have your child approach them about their experience.

There are several mechanical ways to ease the transition. Applying wax over the braces is one, and if that does not work, there are even smooth plastic inserts that can be worn for the duration of your music play. If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask you orthodontist.

As a parent you can encourage your student to keep a “I can do this” attitude, and you will find that after a brief to moderate adjustment period, most music loving teens will play their instrument with joy and ease again.


Dr. Mead is an educator in the dental field, as well as an experienced family dentist with his practice located in Purcell, Oklahoma.
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