Playing the clarinet requires a use of the face and lip muscles, the tongue and the teeth. All of these work together. Many learners ask whether playing clarinet is bad for your teeth.
Playing clarinet will not negatively affect your teeth. Some orthodontic treatments may temporarily affect your ability to practice or perform, but many players are able to continue playing in spite of this. You can use various products like Ezo and mouthpiece patches to protect your teeth and lips.
Playing the clarinet isn’t bad for your teeth. You may need to deal with the added discomfort of braces or getting your wisdom teeth out, but these are temporary problems. There are also products to help alleviate irritation.
In this post, we look at controlling vibrations from the mouthpiece to your teeth, how braces affect playing clarinet, and playing clarinet after wisdom tooth surgery.
Can playing clarinet make your teeth hurt?
A study from the University of Birmingham in England has also shown that playing the clarinet does not influence the position of the anterior teeth. It concludes the forces exerted while playing the clarinet are not strong enough to move the teeth.
While some clarinetists report that playing causes their teeth to shift slightly, the Birmingham study argues that this is typically due to late lower incisor crowding. In other words, the teeth probably shifted on their own, not due to playing the clarinet.
Some clarinetists top teeth may be sensitive to the vibrations that come from the mouthpiece. The pain doesn’t come from the pressure but from the vibrations. This can make it very uncomfortable to play.
The sensitivity can be reduced by applying a mouthpiece patch to the mouthpiece. This patch is a piece of rubber that attaches to the mouthpiece using adhesive.
The rubber helps to deaden the vibrations that would otherwise move from the mouthpiece to the top teeth.
Is double lip embouchure better for teeth?
With a double lip embouchure, both the upper and lower lips cover the teeth before putting the mouthpiece into your mouth. It’s similar to the embouchure used to play the oboe.
This type of embouchure is most often used by clarinet players who have trouble with biting using a single lip embouchure. The double lip embouchure helps to relax the grip between the upper teeth and the jaw.
A benefit to using the double lip embouchure is that it can reduce the vibration that propagate from the mouthpiece to the top teeth.
While this may help with sensitivity to vibration, it is a big change to make. Most players need quite a bit of time when shifting from single lip to double lip embouchure to produce the tone that they’re accustomed to.
Even so, a double lip embouchure often produces a tone that is not as clear as with a single lip embouchure. It also requires more embouchure strength to maintain.
Do braces affect clarinet playing?
Each situation is different, but braces do affect playing for most clarinet players, at least temporarily. The lips have to work to stretch around the braces to form the embouchure.
At first, it can be difficult to even blow into the mouthpiece after getting braces. Most find, though, that within a week, they are able to play as well as they did before getting the braces. Many players are even able to play with rubber bands in.
That said, playing clarinet with braces can be painful. The braces and wires can dig into the inside of the mouth and lips, and even cause sores to develop.
There are a number of products to help alleviate pain caused by braces when playing. Many players use wax to cover the parts of the braces that press into the mouth and lips. Dentists can typically supply this type of wax.
Some clarinet players use a mouth guard to protect their lip. A dentist can make a guard for you, or you can use a product like the Omniguard by Silverstein Works. It’s a moldable plastic that you can custom fit to your teeth and braces.
Other dental appliances such as crowns or bridges shouldn’t affect your clarinet playing. You may be asked not to play the clarinet for a day or two after having an appliance put in, but there are generally no long-lasting effect.
Teeth indents in lower lip when playing clarinet
After playing for a while, many clarinetists find that their lower teeth make an impression into the inside of their lower lip. You may develop a scar line, especially if you have very sharp lower front teeth.
While your lower lip may be sore at first, most people develop a kind of callus which provides a barrier for the skin of the lower lip.
This is similar to a guitar player developing calluses on their fingers that eventually prevents the pain from playing the guitar.
If the mark on your lower lip is painful, try using a mouth guard as mentioned above, it’s a good option. You can also use Ezo denture pads (Amazon) or cigarette paper to provide a cushion between the teeth and the lower lip.
It’s possible that your teeth are leaving a mark because you’re biting too much. Double check that your embouchure is correct, without the jaw pushing upward too much toward the reed.
For the correct clarinet embouchure, put your lower lip over your teeth and stretch the lip (as if you’re putting on lipstick). Put your top teeth down on the mouthpiece. Close your lips to make a seal around the mouthpiece.
The facial muscles need to be firm enough that you’re not forced to bite with your jaw toward the reed. Once your embouchure is correct, practice until you build the muscles you need for endurance.
Can you play clarinet after wisdom tooth surgery?
Most people are instructed to wait for a period of time before starting to play clarinet again after surgery. Many doctors advise that you wait two to four weeks before playing again. Of course, this will depend on the specific surgery.
The problem with playing clarinet too soon after wisdom tooth surgery is that the added air pressure can possibly rip the stitches or cause dry socket.
After a tooth is extracted, a blood clot develops in the space where the tooth was. If this clot becomes dislodged, which can happen when playing the clarinet, there is a dry socket. The bone and nerves are exposed, which can be very painful.
The dentist can help with dry socket, but it’s smart to wait the amount of time they recommend before playing.
Can a mouthpiece patch help?
As mentioned above, a mouthpiece patch can make playing clarinet more comfortable on the teeth.
If your front teeth are sensitive to the vibrations of the mouthpiece, try a rubber mouthpiece patch. They come in different thicknesses, .4 mm and .8 mm. The .8 mm patch dampens the vibrations the most.
A mouthpiece patch can also help you hold the mouthpiece in your mouth more firmly. The rubber of the patch is less slippery than the material of a mouthpiece, so your teeth get a better grip.
A number of players feel that using a mouthpiece patch also helps them to hear what they really sound like to other listeners.
Generally, when we play the clarinet, the vibrations which come up through our top teeth influence how we hear the sound. With a patch, we’re better able to hear the real sound that everyone else hears.
Your teeth are a vital part of playing the clarinet. They need to be strong and healthy in order to support the embouchure that’s needed to play. That’s why it’s important to get regular check-ups and cleanings throughout the year.
If you need to have work done on your teeth, such as having braces put on or having your wisdom teeth pulled, schedule the work at a time when you are able to stop playing for a certain amount of time. Don’t try to play the clarinet sooner than you should.