Playing a musical instrument has been proven to have a variety of mental benefits including enhanced cognition, focus, and problem solving. Great news, right? Well, yes, however there are certain hazards attributed to that musical prowess as well, especially in terms of oral health.
First and foremost, it’s no secret that musical instruments⎯particularly the brass and woodwind varieties⎯collect spit, therefore collecting germs. This is no biggie if you keep your instrument squeaky clean, but for young musicians who don’t yet know how to properly clean and disinfect their instruments, the bacteria buildup can lead to illness and infection of the mouth.
This buildup of germs can also create a breeding ground for cold sores, or oral herpes, a highly contagious and uncomfortable infection. What’s worse, once you’ve had a cold sore, the virus stays in your body, dormant. This means that it can always come back. Ick!
Brass and wind instruments⎯or, the ones you blow into to make sound⎯also pose a distinct risk of trauma to the lips and teeth. To play correctly, the musician must apply pressure to the mouthpiece of the instrument, occasionally causing teeth to grow strangely or become pushed out of place. Because mouth position (or embouchure) is so important when playing these instruments, musicians also must be very careful when receiving restorative dental procedures, such as veneers. If a dental procedure dramatically changes the shape of a patient’s front teeth or lips, it can affect embouchure negatively, resulting in difficulty playing the instrument.
So, what can be done for musicians to help them maintain good oral health? For starters, keeping instruments very clean can help prevent infections. Research the best way to clean your instrument, and then do so regularly. If you are a musician who needs a dental procedure done, be sure to talk to your dentist first, and together the two of you can determine the best way to move forward without hurting your embouchure! Play on!