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Brace Yourself: A Woodwind Doubler’s Journey With Braces, Part 1

Welcome to the first in what I intend to make a series of blogs over the next few years. I’m writing this series for a few reasons: the first, to document my journey with braces, and second, I thought it could be useful to someone else who finds themselves in a similar situation. Perhaps they can learn from it. Lastly, it’s for me. I have a lot of concerns about what the next few years will be like. My hope is that writing about it will help me to process it all.

There won’t be a regularly scheduled timeline of when I will be posting. I just don’t know how much I’m going to have to write about. The best way to find these posts will be to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram. Now let’s get into it…

Back Story

I think it’s important to start with why I got braces and what the end goal is. It all comes down to the fact that I am missing five permanent teeth. They didn’t fall out, get knocked out, or anything like that, they just never existed. I’m missing four on the bottom, the centre two and one on either side toward the back, and one on the top, the third left of centre. In the case of three of these, the baby tooth is still there. I am 31 years old and baby teeth aren’t meant to last that long, so they’re close to falling out.

Before (regular smile)

Before (extra big smile)

So in August of 2020, I went to the dentist to see what we could do about these teeth that are on the verge of falling out. The solution we decided on was implants. However, my dentist is new to doing implants and she didn’t feel comfortable doing mine. I greatly appreciated her honesty on this. So she sent me to another dentist who has many years of experience doing implants.

It was December before I was able to get an appointment with the new dentist. He did all the x-rays, molds, and pictures he needed. His conclusion was that I was going to need orthodontic work done first because there isn’t enough room in some of the spots to put an implant. So I scheduled an appointment with an orthodontist for January. Again, he did the x-rays, molds, and photos, which gave him the information he needed.

The before cast of my teeth

My braces were originally scheduled to go on in March 2021, but I didn’t feel comfortable getting it done at that time because of the COVID-19 case numbers. So we rescheduled for April, but that got bumped back again as well. My braces finally went on May 26, 2021.

First Day

The process of getting the braces put on didn’t hurt at all. It was just uncomfortable largely because my mouth was wide open for about an hour, and that was just for the top because they can’t put the bottom ones on yet. When they put the wire on, I was expecting pain, but honestly I felt next to nothing. 24 hours in and I still had felt very little pain in my teeth. Even saying it’s uncomfortable feels like a stretch. It just feels weird.

Drinking from a cup feels different because my lip protrudes further than usual, or at least that’s what it feels like. Eating is sort of terrifying because with every bite of anything moderately hard I worry about popping one of the brackets off. My wife says kissing me doesn’t feel any different, so that’s good at least. The most difficult thing so far has been flossing. It takes about five times as long as it normally does because you have to use a special tool to feed the floss between the wire and your teeth before you can actually do the job. This has to be done for each individual tooth. I sure hope it gets faster.

Day 1 with braces (regular smile)

Day 1 with braces (extra big smile)

Overall, the first day with them was fine. It’s going to take some time to get use to some every day things, but I’ll get there. At the time of writing this, I haven’t tried playing an instrument yet; I’ll talk about that in the next blog.

My Concerns

I have a lot of concerns about what the next few years will be like, mostly related to my career as a musician. My biggest concern is that it’s going to affect my ability to play my instruments. I don’t have a lot of concern around my primary instrument, baritone sax. I just can’t really think of how the braces would get in the way, but like I said I haven’t tried yet. My concern comes with the alto sax, clarinet, and flute.

My concern with the alto and the clarinet are the same. I’m worried that because of the small mouthpiece and how tight you pull your lips in to play, the braces are going to somehow get in the way. I know people do it, so I’ll figure it out. My concern is that it’s going to set me back and I’m not only going to have to relearn immediately, but again when the braces come off.

I’m more concerned about the flute though. I am very much still learning the flute and I still struggle with getting my lips in the right position to play. Now that all this metal is in my mouth, I worry it’s going to undo all my progress and I’ll be basically starting over.

I am also concerned about how I look. It’s silly, I know that, but I’m worried anyways. I’m thankful that the corner of the music industry I work in is less concerned about looks, but it still bothers me. I’ve always been a self conscious person and I’ve never been great about dealing with it. Though I don’t actually believe that anyone is going to treat me differently now, it’s all about how I see myself. I’m just glad to be a happily married man and not have to worry about how I look while dating. That would suck.

Moving Forward

Now that the braces are on and I’m starting to settle in to having them, it’s time to start trying instruments. I’m going to take a week or two and spend some time feeling out what it’s like playing each instrument with the braces on. Once I’ve got a feel for that, I’ll sit down and write about it.

If you made it to this point, thank for reading. I hope you’ll continue to follow along on this journey with me!

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