Advice needed on playing with brace fitted

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by backrowboy, Sep 15, 2009.

  1. backrowboy

    backrowboy Member

    My 13 yr old son has been advised to have a brace (tram-line) on top and bottom teeth. I have heard from various players/teachers that this can affect playing in the long term quite substantially. He does not know what to do as he is due to take grade 5 on cornet in a few months time. Has anyone had any experiences with braces?
  2. Kjata

    Kjata Member

    Yep braces are defo a pain short term, I had both top and bottom braces, especially at the beginning, but with page 1 arban work I got through the year of brace!
    When you get them off the same thing applies, you suck for a month but with lots of practice you get better and the perfect teeth does help the playing in the long run.
  3. Getzonica

    Getzonica Active Member

    I refused to have braces but I know people who did have them and they have struggled to start, with especially with the high notes.
  4. I have had many students, over the years, with braces, and they affect everyone differently. Some have no trouble adjusting, and somee are hampered greatly, and all levels between. There several commercial products designed to cover the braces while playing. At this time I have a french horn student using a plastic device that resembles a piece of split tubing over the braces, and he copes rather well.
  5. AndyG

    AndyG Member

    I declined to have braces as a 14/15 year old (I can't remember!).

    When I was 17 my teeth had moved enough that they dug into the inside of my lip when I played and even caused the inside of my mouth to bleed if by the end of concerts! By the time I got an oppointment with an orthodontist, what would have been free braces as a child would cost me over 3 grand as an adult. I went to uni and quit playing, eventually I missed it and went back to it after a year. If anything the problems were now worse as having lost a load of strength in my lips I pushed harder!

    Now I have braces, which cost me a lot of money, and I'm still playing with them. It has made it even harder than with my bad teeth but I think it will be worth it in the long term. Although mine aren't train tracks (and are probably not available on the NHS), so usually do not cause me pain when playing.

    Each case is different but if your dentist is advising it then I would listen to them and ask him how his teeth might be in the future if left to their own devices.

    You seem to mention long term problems? Well he'll get braces and his mouth will feel different and that will have a negative effect. He'll get them off and all his teeth will have moved and that will have a negative effect. But both should be short term, I can't see straight teeth being a disadvantage in the long term!
  6. Ray Woods

    Ray Woods Member

    I first started playing cornet aged around 14, at about 16 I was fitted with initially a temporary plastic brace after having some teeth removed to create room in my mouth; followed swiftly by a full set of top and bottom tramlines (smalls lumps of metal glued to the teeth with a pair of wires running over them). I had to re-learn to play from scratch, but managed it very well. I was given a roll of red wax to mash into the tramlines to create a smoother surface. The brace lifted my lips away from my teeth and matched well with the diameter of the mouthpiece - the result was fantastic & I developed a super tone with great flexibility and got the Principal Cornet seat. I tried to use as little pressure as possible. I had the brace for about 3 years. However the devastating day came when the brace was removed and I turned up at the next rehearsal unable to make any inteliigble sound. I was very upset; I loved playing and the gift had been taken from me. We were rehearsing for a contest and the piece was The Three Muskateers, with loads of solo work in it - I loved it but never played it. The MD was upset too and the band seriously considered paying to have my teeth replaced with screw-in ones. I tried sticking chewing gum to my teeth to replicate where the brace had been, but to no avail. I bounced down to tenor horn intitially, but worked hard on relearning my cornet embouchure. I recall it taking several months before I could get a decent tone out of the cornet and have to admit I never regained the sweetness of tone that came from lifting the lips off the teeth. However I did recover and have sat in the principal seat since my brace days demonstrating that a recovery is possible. Another thing to remember is that every 3 or 4 weeks the brace will be tightened - and the teeth will ache a lot for a few days after this - pressing a cornet mouthpiece onto sore teeth is an endurance test.

    If your son loves playing, then he will need your support when he temporarily loses his ability to play when the brace is fitted, then later removed, but your could assure him that his ability will return

    I do not believe I suffered any long term impact of playing cornet wearing a brace; the key is not screwing the cornet into your face when wearing a brace, because this will pinch the lips and restrict blood flow impacting on stamina & tone. This might damage the lips - but the same could be said of any player using too much pressure.
  7. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    I agree with the above - I have taught a few kids as braces are installed or removed and I'd take the advice of a dentist over a brass teacher any day when it comes to dental health!

    I work hard to insure they play with as little pressure between the mouthpiece and the lips as possible especially straight after the braces are added, changed or removed. Of course a good teacher should be making sure this is the case pretty much all the time anyway as excessive pressure damages sound, stamina, and eventually muscle.

    For some kids it's easy and not much changes, for others it can be devastating. I believe it's to do with the type of embouchure and air use a player normally employs but that would be taking us off topic and I wouldn't dare to offer any advice in that area without seeing/hearing your son play. If things go badly remind him that with sensible practise he will continue to improve, braces are just a temporary hurdle.

    Please post here again when the braces have been fitted so we can benefit from your experience!
  8. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Member

    At the very least I'd suggest postponing until after the Grade 5. If he's fitted with braces now he's unlikely to be in a position to take the exam.
    Once again I'd advise taking a look at the techniques outlined there are supposed to be useful to youngsters with braces.
  9. HowarthBrass

    HowarthBrass Member

    My son is also 13, and plays Trombone (grade 5). He had a removable brace fitted last year. This is proving to be very successful. Before he had it fitted, there was a 12mm gap between the top and bottom teeth, which over the year has now reduced to a 7mm gap. The only time he has to wear the brace is when he gets home from school (homework time) & bedtime, so it does'nt effect his playing at all. May be worth having a word with your orthodontist to see if they can help your son. Now is the best time, as he is growing. Good Luck !!!
  10. Mujician

    Mujician Member

    As a brass teacher myself, i would say to follow your dentists advice. Yes it can make things messy, but only short term. We all know we shouldnt be playing with any pressure anyway! :biggrin: You can get plastic sheaths to place over the braces so it doesnt actually cut into your lips. I have no idea what these are called unfortunately. (They are like a little rubber strip, to cusion the inside of your mouth). Playing wont sound too pretty whislt you have braces in, so I would take the exam, then get the braces fitted.
    Long term, if you follow proper practice, it should really strengthen your lip muscles. Good luck.
  11. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    There are many things available these days but in the old days I used to advise kids to get dental wax (which dentists didn't want to dispense) from the dentist and use that. Obviously there are plastic alternatives these days, which might be more use in the long run. However, I would very strongly suggest waiting until the grade 5 exam is over before letting the dentist torture your child with braces.
    [vision of Willy Wonka as a child :eek:]
  12. tpcornet12

    tpcornet12 Member

    I also turned down the opportunity to have a free brace when I was a teenager as I thought it would affect my playing too much. Now I wish I had as my front teeth are crooked to the point where I think it has a negative effect on my playing stamina. I am considering having private work done like Andy has but need to save a bit of cash first. I am considering "Invisilign" as they seem flat and probably don't affect playing as much. You wouldn't be able to get it on NHS though.

    My advice is to have the brace as I'm sure long term it is better for your playing to have a straight set of teeth. Wish I had.
  13. backrowboy

    backrowboy Member

    Like to say thanks to all who've offered advice - my son is reading through the posts. Thanks once again.
  14. AndyG

    AndyG Member

    For tpcornet12:
    Ivisalign is actually what I have got! I can play in them, but my high register was (and still is) definately badly affected. It does cause some other issues that you may not have considered, for a start they taper backwards from half way up the back of your teeth onto the roof of your mouth, which is pretty much where your toungue goes, although this hasn't been a massive problem I'm currently a big fan of slurred (and low :wink:) fast notes rather than tounging them! Also if you have rough edges they can scrape you tongue/side of your mouth but these can be filed down. In terms of avoiding pain, being able to brush your teeth, and probably being able to play I think they are a good choice. I am used to having to take them out everytime I eat and find somewhere to brush my teeth (but it can still be hassle) and it can be built into your schedule at work or whatever quite easily. If you are out and about somewhere on a rare occasion where there is nowhere to brush then just washing your mouth with water and putting them back in until you get home isn't awful. All in all they are probably more hassle than traintracks. For example: Someone offers you some food, and you have to explain you cant eat because you're wearing braces, and they get confused (partly because they can't see them) and end up having receive a full explanation and inspect your mouth! Sorry all this is irrelevent to the original poster as they won't be available on the NHS, if you can get train tracks on the NHS then this treatment isn't worth the amount you would pay for it!

    Back to the orignal post
    I think tpcornet12 basically summed up my orignal points in his last sentence. In the long term I can't see having this done being bad for your playing, however not getting it done really could be. I'm going to sound like a stupid old fart here (I'm only 20!) but to 13 year old a year(ish) of pain in your mouth and really hampered cornet playing might seem like a long time, but both the people posting here who turned it down regretted it and are trying to sort out what they really wish they had sorted at your age!
  15. tpcornet12

    tpcornet12 Member

    Thanks Andy, this is really useful information for me.
    Cheers, Tim.
  16. jockinafrock

    jockinafrock Active Member

    Boy Wonder had braces fitted top and bottom, and found it very difficult to play, though he persevered and played within his limitations, not overdoing things. His orthodontist was an absolute star, and took his playing into consideration when fitting the braces.

    Instead of the more usual braces fitted to NHS patients he was instead fitted with braces where the wire is that new fangled NASA designed memory wire. It was a godsend and, within a week, his teeth had started to move. It was so effective that he only had the braces fitted for around 8 months instead of the usual twice as long. :biggrin:

    The orthodontist impressed on us that, as these are so expensive compared to the usual braces, he really had to adhere to the care and upkeep of them. These were usually only offered to private patients wanting a quicker return for their money. He also said that, as patients were having their problems remedied much quicker, it was actually more cost-effective for his practice to fit these - he could see and treat more patients in the same timescale, so keeping his budget-holding practice manager happy!

    I'm sure they were called 'Damon' or something to that effect. Using wax was his only solice, though not perfect, and unfortunately didn't manage very well with the plastic covers on the braces. It's been well worth it and, although his teeth have moved slightly since, we are indebted to an enlightened and empathic orhtodontist!

    Good luck! :D
  17. JCY

    JCY Member

    Listen to your dentist: a cautionary tale,
    I refused to have a train-track brace when I was younger, because I loved playing cornet and was worried about not being able to play - I had a removable brace instead. My teeth moved and top and bottom nearly met and my playing improved, which was all great.
    BUT.......I wore it every night until I was about 25 then thought 'sod it' (and also forgot to take it on holiday, oops) and stopped wearing it - within a few weeks my teeth had moved so much I couldn't get it back in and my front teeth have continued to move forwards (the gap between my front and bottom teeth is now about 18mm! yes, I am a freak:biggrin:) and makes playing the cornet much more difficult, esp high notes and stamina (as you can't help but apply more pressure and it actually feels bruised/hurts, also my bottom lip sometimes presses into my top teeth as that's where they meet, which stops the note, obviously).
    I've been seriously thinking about playing a larger instrument (and am currently attempting horn, which is a bit less painful on the chops, but I do love playing rep! although bass is really fun too!), as it may be the only solution - other than winning the lottery (I've had a quote for £4,000 to get them fixed!!).
    So, to summarise this waffle - listen to your dentist and have it done now while it's free/cheap and your playing will surely be better on well-aligned teeth in the long run (what's playing a bit rubbish for a year or 2, compared with never acheiving your potential for the rest of your life?).
    Hope this helps :)

  18. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Reading an interview with Roger Webster in this week's BB, it appears that they currently have an orthodontist investigating a mouthpiece designed specifically for those who have braces fitted.
  19. Leyfy

    Leyfy Active Member

    Ok, I've now had a fixed ceramic brace in for nearly two weeks - top and bottom, full on train tracks.

    First two days - AWFUL. I couldn't pitch a note twice the same way.

    Two weeks later, I'd say i was 80% back to strength. This is due to two things: orthodontic wax and a week of playing nothing but scales and arpeggios (and persistence).

    Not saying it will work for everyone, but it has worked for me :)
  20. euphsrock

    euphsrock Member

    There's a good new book out called "Brace Yourself" which is specifically designed for learning players with braces. Might be worth a look.
    You can find it here,

    Also, with one of my students I found that a plastic mouthpiece worked a little bit, guess because it is softer?

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