Certain instruments increase the risk of developing temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), a painful disorder caused by a misalignment of your jaw. Symptoms include jaw pain, limited jaw mobility, tinnitus (buzzing in the ears) and migraines, among other troublesome symptoms. TMJ can make playing your instrument painful and difficult. Fortunately, you do not need to choose between your instrument and a pain-free life.
Playing a wind instrument requires complicated muscle work for steady airflow, controlled staccato and legato, and proper tuning. Some instruments (especially single reed) also apply pressure on your jaw as you play. Clarinet and saxophone players, for example, often develop an overbite, where your upper teeth extend beyond your lower teeth when your mouth is closed. A combination of these forces can cause you to develop a malocclusion (bad bite), which changes the alignment of your jaw. Spending 3 or more hours per day practicing puts you at a higher risk for TMJ.
Brass mouthpieces can also cause you to develop a bad bite. In order to maintain good sound, brass players often jut out their chin while playing. Maintaining this position for extended periods of time can cause an underbite to develop which will cause a bad bite. Not only do brass players risk developing an underbite, but jutting their chin out in this manner can also fatigue or misalign your jaw and cause TMJ.
Good Posture with Strings
Violins and violas are notorious for causing TMJ problems because you hold them between your chin and shoulder. Many people tilt their head down and use their chin to support the instrument. The added pressure on your jaw can push your jaw out of its proper alignment.
The unnatural position of your head also causes problems. Tilting your head to the side for extended periods of time can cause your neck muscles to pull on the surrounding muscles. They can roll your shoulders forward, move your vertebrae, and misalign your jaw. You can adjust your posture and change how much you rely on your chin to support your instrument by increasing or decreasing the height of your chin rest to reduce head tilt.
The piano doesn’t directly impact your jaw, but certain habits typical to pianists can cause TMJ. During intense concentration, pianists often unconsciously clench and grind their teeth, called Bruxism. Tooth grinding can change your bite and fatigue your jaw, causing TMJ. Your posture also matters when playing this instrument. As with stringed instruments, you should strive to maintain a good posture to promote the straight alignment of your spine.
Managing Your Pain
A combination of habit changes and non-surgical TMJ treatment can help you manage your pain so that you don’t have to abandon your love of music. Make sure that you practice with a straight posture, and limit the number of hours spent playing wind and brass instruments to prevent malocclusions.
If you develop jaw pain or notice popping and clicking in your jaw, a TMJ dentist at Advanced Dentistry of Tarry Town can help. We will craft a custom bite splint for you to prevent bruxism and realign your jaw. If your instrument’s mouthpiece has changed your bite, braces and other dental techniques will move your teeth back into an ideal position and relieve pressure on your jaw.
For more information about how individualized TMJ treatment can help you manage your pain, please contact Advanced Dentistry of Tarrytown at (914) 332-4402 today.