For all musicians your body is your most important instrument. For horn players and vocalists your teeth are a vital tool. Yearly dental exams are the best way to prevent, detect early, and treat various dental problems. The NOMC has a dental provider to keep a smile on your face and your pearly whites sparkling!
Dental concerns specific to instrument groups:
Brass Instruments: bruxism and TMJ are common; increased incidence of crepitus and clicking in trombone and tuba players, vs non-musicians; dry lip and calluses on upper lips also common
Single Reed: most of the weight and pressure is on the lower jaw, making the lower teeth at risk for abrasion and chipping
Double Reed: if teeth are already too close together, there is increased risk for pain, ulceration, and hyperkeratosis; increased risk for infection of parotid duct (due to increases saliva pushed back)
Violin & Viola: pressure from holding instrument between shoulder and jaw often causes musicians to clench their teeth, sometimes fracturing molars; also prone to pain in cheek muscles and TMJ
Adult Dental Anatomy
Musicians who play wind instruments are at greater risk for incurring orthodontic tooth movement because their
applied muscle force when playing exceeds the optimal force for orthodontic tooth movement.
Soft tissue trauma: those who play wind instruments at length incur lip and cheek discomfort
Focal Dystonia (“occupational cramp”): leads to loss of control of the muscles of embouchure
Dental Protheses (splints, lip shield, partial & full dentures): when worn during practice/performance, leads to mouth lesions and puts the embouchure at risk
Herpes Labialis: lesions easily occur by mechanical abrasions with instruments and stress, typically around a performance, making outbreaks more common. It should be noted that wind instrument players are at two times more likely then nonmusicians to have a herpes outbreak
Dry Mouth: increases when nervous/performance anxiety, despite the increased saliva production associated with playing wind instruments; the frequent inhaling of air while playing worsens tooth sensitivity in those affected.
If you are experiencing dental or orthodontic problems, especially those that inhibit your ability to perform, please contact the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic at 412-1366.