Orthodontics on Silver Lake!

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Musical Instruments and Orthodontic

Does making sweet music cause changes to your bite?

A popular question heard by my staff and me when our musical patients begin their orthodontic treatment:

Question: What can I expect now that I have braces? Will it feel weird, or hurt? For how long?

Answer: We have seen many patients over the years adjust their embouchure in a week or two. Some use the reusable protective covers we have available. As the treatment progresses, they tell us it feels normal again.

A recent article* in the AJO-DO looked at a long held theory that playing a wind instrument can effect the position of your teeth. Well does it? An orthodontist and bassoonist – Dr. Strayer – and others, have proposed this theory. It certainly seems plausible, considering the forces distributed on the dentition when playing a trumpet, a clarinet, an oboe, and a flute, which all direct horizontal and vertical forces on the teeth.

Proffit’s equilibrium theory of tooth movement was put to the test. The theory states that tooth movement requires a force application that exceeds minimum threshold to effect tooth movement. The effects of thumbsucking are well-documented in the literature.

The authors studied 4 groups of professional musicians, all of whom play or practice on average at least 3 hours per day. One group, who did not play wind instruments, was the control. Study casts were taken of their teeth. The results showed that teeth positions are not altered significantly when playing wind instruments, except when the musician plays a large cup-shaped mouthpiece like a trombone or tuba. These musicians are at a small risk of developing a lingual cross-bite. So as the risk of significant changes to a musician’s teeth alignment is very low, we encourage you to continue to practice those wind instruments!

On a side note – Since they focused the study on wind instruments, there was no mention of violinists and the risk of developing posterior cross-bites in this study, or in the references. A friend of mine from dental school who played the violin was convinced that musical activity contributed to his posterior cross-bite.

Until next month-thanks for your time!

*Reference: Grammatopoulos, White, and Dhopatkar. Effects of playing a wind instrument on the occlusion. Am J Orthod 2012; 138-145.

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