Braces for the intermediate player

Dear Mr. Friedland,

In your 2004 post, “Playing with Braces,” you write,

“The presence of correcting prostheses within the mouth (BRACES) and the beginning steps in clarinet playing are not particularly compatible.’

Is the same true for the intermediate steps? My 14-year-old son has played for 6 years and is quite good. His teeth could use braces strictly for cosmetic reasons. Are braces likely to ruin his sound or make playing uncomfortable (after an adjustment period, which we of course expect)?
Thanks, WP

Dear W.P.:
Thank you for your question concerning braces for cosmetic reasons. I fully understand the problems of braces in a comprehensive manner, mainly because I have four grown children and my wife wore braces as a child.
As far as your sons sound, that cannot change because it really exists in his ear and he will go to that sound regardless of what is in his mouth.
Braces will not change it in any way.
But, you know these days there are several ways to go about changing the bite either for cosmetic reasons or for dental health.  I never had them, but still have had a lifetime of dental problems.
For a strange bit of humor from my late mother, she always blamed her three children for her poor dental health saying frequently, “You kinds took all my calcium, and ruined my teeth” (I will not go into what she did to us three perfect darlings.)
Back to different ways of changing the bite, or braces or what have you.
In my memory the fixed braces were the most uncomfortable for all of my friends. They hated them. One of them used to take off the rubber bands that kept them in place and used to shoot the band across the room, which was fun, I thought.
Dentists abhor young patients who put these kinds of things(wind instruments) into their mouths because inevitably it interferes with the braces.
One usually has a slight overbite to develop an embouchure for clarinet playing, and braces will tend to make the bite straight up and down.
But lately there are braces that can be worn for part of the day or just for the night. These would appear to be a better situation to choose. You and your son will have to do the investigation. Results always vary.  
So, braces will not change the sound made by your son. All the rest is up to you both.
Good luck,and keep practicing.



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