Students – and their parents – are now in the second semester of the school year. For music students this means learning new notes and techniques, as well as practicing for upcoming spring concerts. With all that music comes some serious threats to the musician’s oral well-being. We’ve rounded up some information and tips to make sure the spring performer’s teeth and mouth stay as healthy as the rest of them.
This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often a wind instrument’s cleaning cloth, reed, or mouth pieces get shared. Not only are they sharing germs, viruses, and other sinus fluids, but also oral bacteria such as mutans streptococci that can cause gingivitis and cavities.
Just as students can pass nasty oral bacteria to each other, a musician can re-contaminate their own mouths if they don’t clean their instrument properly. Using a run through cloth isn’t enough. Sanitizing or at least disinfecting the entire instrument often or the mouth piece after each use is ideal. The Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals recommends the following steps to properly clean a musical instrument:
1. Soak in warm water for twenty minutes.
2. Wash with soap and water.
3. Rinse thoroughly with water.
4. Immerse in the disinfectant solution. When using the disinfectant, follow the manufacturer instructions on dilution levels and immersion times to ensure effectiveness.
5. Rinse thoroughly with water and let dry.
6. In schools where dishwashers are available, mouthpieces can go into the dishwasher on a regular wash cycle.
Treating Dry Mouth and Performance Anxiety
All those upcoming performances can make a performer, especially children, worry. Anxiety and stress related to performing can create oral problems, most commonly dry mouth. Saliva is a buffer for your oral health against bacteria and plaque, so when its levels decrease, so does your defense against related problems like cavities. Oral sores and swollen gums can also be symptoms of dry mouth.
In addition to making sure your little entertainer brushes and flosses their teeth properly, you can also have them use fluoride mouth wash and drink more water. Eating foods with higher water levels such as fruits like watermelon and peaches, and celery also increase saliva flow and hydrate the body for better concentration. Lastly, gargling with salt water once daily can cleanse the mouth and bring back normal saliva volume. These suggestions will also help keep lips hydrated and increase performance potential for wind instrument players.
Breathing techniques and relaxation exercises such as yoga might also help with the anxiety and keep dry mouth away altogether.
Let Your Dentist Help
Keeping your mouth healthy is a dentist’s work. When a student begins to play a new instrument, it’s doubly important to make sure they make it to their regular check-ups. Have them bring their instruments along so their dentist has a good idea of how it is played. In addition, having a mold make of the musicians mouth is a great emergency tactic should something happen and orthodontic or surgical restoration of the oral cavity is needed. This is especially true of a musician that plays regularly or is planning on making it part of their career. A mold can put a traumatized mouth back into order. The tiniest change to tooth alignment, width, length or thickness will throw off a musician’s embouchure, or the way their mouth rests against their instrument when they play.
Let the Shows Continue
Reiterating the above information and helping your musician maintain good oral hygiene can guarantee that a mouthful of problems will never prevent them from playing the instrument they love. Keeping their instrument clean, not sharing parts or pieces with others, keeping saliva moving around the mouth for natural protection, and working with your dentist to ensure optimum oral health can all help with this goal. Then each concert will be music to their mouth and ears.