If you’re looking for an instrument for yourself or a child, you may be wondering if certain instruments are better or worse for your teeth. After all, great embouchure can be essential for great musicianship, but is it hard to keep your mouth in that kind of position for so long, and does it damage your teeth?
No, playing the trumpet is not bad for your teeth. Links to malocclusion are weak to moderate, but some trumpet players do report slightly loose teeth from many hours of playing their horn. However, the link to weakened or misaligned teeth has not been proven scientifically and may have other causes.
While playing the trumpet has not been proven to be bad for your teeth, there are other considerations when deciding on what instrument might be right for you. Here, we break down some common mouth issues when playing the trumpet, as well as different physical strains based on instruments.
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Some Physical Strains of Playing the Trumpet and How to Avoid Them
While there is no proof that playing the trumpet is bad for your teeth, there are several other factors to consider if you’re deciding which instrument to take up.
Tired Lips When Playing Trumpet
There’s no doubt that the embouchure required to play the trumpet can be tiring, especially if you’re brand new to it. The proper embouchure takes much practice, and even experienced trumpet players can tire from the physical position and force needed to exert air into this brass horn.
How to avoid it: Pace yourself, and work your way up to hours and hours of practicing. There’s no need to push it when you’re just starting out and developing a perfect embouchure. If you’ve ever played the guitar, imagine pushing yourself to play more before your finger calluses have built up. You’re just going to hurt yourself.
According to The American Lung Association, hypersensitivity pneumonitis is “a disease of the lungs in which your lungs become inflamed as an allergic reaction to inhaled dust, fungus, molds or chemicals.”
So how does this happen with brass players? New research has shown tiny particles of mold and bacteria build up inside of the horn and are then inhaled by the musician. These particles become trapped in the airways, causing inflammation within the lungs and hypersensitivity, hence the name.
How to avoid it: Always clean your instrument! It only takes one lapse for bacteria and mold to begin to build up, so be sure to clean your horn after every time you practice, ideally with an alcohol-based solution.
Physical and Mental Exhaustion
There’s no doubt that the trumpet is physically demanding, especially on the lungs and the lips. It takes quite a bit of lung exertion to make noise through a brass instrument, and just the right embouchure to push it through the horn.
Because of this, physical and mental exhaustion is not uncommon, especially for young and new trumpet players, or any brass or horn musician.
How to avoid it: Take breaks between practice sessions to allow your lungs and lips to recover and grow stronger. Additionally, if you’re feeling mentally exhausted and/or frustrated, take some time to mentally recover and feel free to seek some help from fellow musicians or trumpet instructor.
Physical Strains of Other Instruments
If you are checking out the risks of trumpets before you decide to take it up, you should also know about the key risks of other common instruments so you can make an informed decision on which one to pick up. Trumpet is not the only instrument to have physical strain associated with it!
Single Reed Instruments
Single reed instruments are similar to brass instruments like the trumpet in that they do take some time to master the embouchure.
If you have traditional metal braces, these can occasionally become tricky to play, especially when your braces are tightened, as a soft bite is a necessary part of the embouchure. However, it just takes some adjusting and the good news is: braces aren’t forever!
Examples: Clarinet, Saxophone
Double Reed Instruments
Double reed instruments have been known to take a bit more time and muscle training to master than single reed instruments. The double reed means instead of a plastic or metal piece on the top part of the mouthpiece, you have a second reed which must vibrate in order to produce sound.
However, many double reed musicians (like bassoonists and oboists) will tell you it’s absolutely worth the work, as the double reed timbre is arguably one of the most elegant to be produced.
Examples: Bassoon, Oboe
Percussion instruments do not require an embouchure, but they are arguably more physically demanding than other instruments. For instance, think of a drummer: if you’re drumming at a fast pace, your arms can only keep up as long as they are physically able!
Or, an instrument like the xylophone often requires you to be on your feet and may take several paces between the low notes and the high notes.
Examples: Drums, Cymbals, Timpani
String instruments come in many shapes and sizes. And, while they are all virtually constructed by the same musical principle, the application can differ among them. For example, violins and cellos are most commonly seen in classical music, whereas electric guitars are most widely used in rock and roll.
That being said, more and more musicians are experimenting with stringed instrument composition, and you will see some crossover between the traditional applications of classical instruments and rock instruments.
Examples: Guitar, Violin, Cello
Considerations When Selecting Trumpet Or Other Instrument
While there are physical considerations when selecting an instrument, there are other items you should consider before you take the plunge, other than just what looks cool.
What Type of Music You Want to Play
One of the most important considerations when deciding what instrument to pursue is what type of music you want to play. What fun is playing an instrument if you don’t like the genre you play? Additionally, some instruments are more versatile than others.
For example, the violin and viola have been most strongly associated with classical music, whereas saxophones are more aligned with jazz. Instruments like drums, piano, or bass guitar (or stand up bass!) are widely versatile, and can be applied to many different genres, from classical to rock and roll to jazz.
What Part of the Arrangement You Want to Play
One often overlooked part of selecting an instrument, especially for children or teenagers, is what part of the arrangement you want to play. Especially in traditional band arrangements, this is exceptionally important. Some instruments are assigned the melody, whereas others play a more supporting role.
If you’re most interested in playing melodies, consider an instrument like the trumpet, flute, alto saxophone, or clarinet. All of these instruments tend to be in the alto or soprano ranges.
Instruments in the tenor, bass, or baritone range tend to take a more supporting role in traditional musical composition. These instruments will occasionally take the melody, but more often than not will take a supporting role, just as a bass line would, in order to support the melodic instruments.
Then there’s the percussion and rhythm section. Percussion instruments like drums, cymbals, and timpani paired with bass and sometimes piano tend to make up what’s known as the rhythm section in traditional music and jazz. These instruments are the backbone to support all of the others.
Of course, there are always exceptions to these loose rules, but it is an important consideration to be aware of, nonetheless.
Trumpet Playing’s Impact On Teeth, Conclusion
In conclusion, whereas trumpets may not harm your teeth, there are many considerations to think about when it comes to selecting your instrument. We hope this article has helped you in your search for finding the perfect instrument for you!