Braces can have a big impact on a wind musician, especially the brass player. For some students like the woodwinds, braces have very little impact. Most low brass students (trombone, baritone, tuba) also experience very little trouble adjusting to braces. French horn and trumpet, however, seem to have the most difficulty adapting. All musicians who will have orthodontic work should read the tips below in order to get the most from their music experience.
First, please discuss the possibility of getting “invisalign” braces. These are the latest option and they do not have any impact on playing an instrument, other than taking them out while you play. But if you are limited to traditional braces, please consider the timing of adding or removing braces. Instead of putting them on late into the school year, directly in the time of solo festivals, school band festivals, spring concerts, consider delaying them until the summer, or early in the school year with a minimum of 4 weeks (preferably 8 weeks) from any auditions or performances. The summer particularly works well since most students do not have the performance obligations which occur during school. This would allow students to slowly rebuild their strength over the course of the summer.
Secondly, immediately seek guidance from a private teacher or school director. Steps can be taken from day one which will greatly help the students overcome the difficult adjustment period. Too often kids try to adapt to braces on their own and end up developing so many poor playing habits that it becomes almost impossible to make a sound.
Thirdly, the earlier the age, the better. Students seem to adjust easier to braces earlier in their physical development of playing a brass instrument.
Finally, after having braces installed, try not to have them adjusted within two weeks of a performance as students often experience several days of discomfort, thus making practice almost impossible during that time. Although woodwind players experience the least problems with braces, these slight adjustments to the braces often make the mouth sore enough to inhibit playing for a few days.
And please speak to your music teacher about your orthodontic plans. Not only is it important to understand the full scope of getting braces with regard to your own needs, but others in the ensemble are affected by the difficulites or impact you may experience. Think of a team which is counting on the “starting quarterback” and now that starter is out with an injury. Good communication and planning can make this work for everyone.