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The Trombone ForumTeaching & LearningPractice Room(Moderator: blast) My crooked teeth and the beginings of a bipolar embouchure
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patrickosmith

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« on: May 04, 2016, 03:07AM »

My upper teeth to the left and right of the two center teeth protrude. The tooth to the right of the two center teeth has always stuck out a tad. But now it is happening to my tooth to the left of the two center teeth. Both have been sticking out more and more as the years go by. In the last year, the left one has really accelerated.

The problem is that my inner rim sits on top of it (the left one). I've noticed recently that --rather than always playing on top of it-- I often gravitate to one side or the other. In essence, this is causing me to have a "bipolar" embouchure. I'm not sure if that's a real term with respect to embouchure but it seems to fit. My long-term fix is to use Invisalign to straighten all of my front teeth. That will take years.

What I'm curious about is the exact placement of other player's embouchures. Does your embouchure placement put the inner edge of the rim squarely in the center of a tooth or does it  put it in the area between two teeth? On both sides? Or is one rim at the center of the tooth and the other in between teeth?
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« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2016, 03:23AM »

Patrick,

You seem to be what golfers call paralysis by analysis....how mine or any other players chops work will not benefit you, I would suggest you work with Doug Elliott, he is the example of how to make a non centred embouchure work to its total efficency!
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patrickosmith

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« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2016, 03:44AM »

Patrick,

You seem to be what golfers call paralysis by analysis....how mine or any other players chops work will not benefit you, I would suggest you work with Doug Elliott, he is the example of how to make a non centred embouchure work to its total efficency!

I am in the planning stages of orthodontia treatment plan. I'd like to get it right so I'd like to harvest any good information out there. So far, I have nothing specific to use. I guess most of the aging trombonists on this site have stable teeth. Mine are not.

By the way, I am an excellent golfer and I have never suffered from paralysis by analysis. And as a long-time student of Crisafulli, I would have to say that my playing is the antithesis of paralysis by analysis.

I'll be down to the DC area in the next couple of years and if Doug is available and willing, I plan to have a few face-to-face consultations.
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« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2016, 04:06AM »

I had all my upper teeth capped and re-aligned about 3 1/2 years ago. The difference was very noticeable in my playing - for the better. Probably anyone can learn to play on any tooth alignment, but in my book, nicely laterally-aligned uppers is an asset, regardless of how they vertically align with the lowers. I had my crooked lowers capped and re-aligned about a year ago. I didn't notice any change in my playing.

I like to think of teeth alignment as lip support. If the uppers are not nicely aligned - relative to each other - with maybe one or two sticking out or receding from the others, then the lip support is not as unified as it could be. Again, a player can probably learn to compensate and I'm sure there are plenty of decent players out there who do. But given my choice, I say given my choice - I would rather have nicely aligned uppers.

...Geezer
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« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2016, 06:12AM »

I second the recommendation to visit Doug.  In the small number of cases I've seen close up, he's worked with what the player has.  Big plus there.

As far as straightening... IMHO the most important thing is to have the teeth lined up so they work well enough (not perfectly... NO one really knows what "perfect" is...)  to do their jobs without undue stress to either the teeth themselves or the tissue, bone, and muscle involved.

I regret that, many decades ago, I agreed to some grinding of molars to settle occlusion.  The dentist was correct in assessing that the molars were NOT matching right. But the solution was not really to remove tooth bits... the solution was for me to change the habit I'd made of thrusting my lower jaw out while playing, then finally leaving it out all the time.  Once I corrected that bad habit, guess what the next dentist did?  Hint: harder to put material back than to take it away.  No way of knowing, but I suspect this mistake on my part has contributed to quite a number of crowns.

Incisors (front teeth) have a job to do.  After they are aligned well enough to do that is a good time to settle the mouthpiece.  I'd really NOT have any changes made with the goal of a more uniform playing surface. 

Just my two cents.
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patrickosmith

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« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2016, 08:34AM »

I'd really NOT have any changes made with the goal of a more uniform playing surface. 

Well the fact is I'm doing it anyway.

My goals are to:
1) have decent looking teeth. They look pretty bad (growing up as a pauper on a farm with no fluoride in the water didn't help).
2) have straight teeth that are stable and remain so. They are moving so much that they begin to interfere with ...
3) be able to play trombone

The question is, considering goal 3) is there anything in particular regarding 1) and 2) that should be done one way or the other? I believe the answer is "No, just let the dentist / orthodontist make all the choices for me." However, this whole process is expensive and time consuming and is something that is not easily reversible. Hence my query for advice.
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« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2016, 05:41PM »

Go for it; I had crooked teeth that our hapless orthodontist was unable to fix when I was of the age when one normally gets braces, then sprang for them in my mid-20s because I hated how my teeth looked.
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Doug Elliott
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« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2016, 08:03PM »

Go for it but don't expect miracles.  There may be some different re-learning to do afterward.

Another common reason for straightening is to be able to clean them more effectively, so they will ultimately last longer.
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patrickosmith

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« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2016, 02:31AM »

Yes, I'll be going for it and I do expect to have set backs as a result -- hopefully nothing major.
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Geezerhorn

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« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2016, 04:50AM »

When I had a dental appointment sometime during the day, I wasn't able to play until the next day; whether he had me numbed up or not. Just too much tissue stress. And yes, there was a period of re-adjustment needed. But all-in-all, I am glad I had the work done. At least I could put a check mark in that box where I absolutely knew whatever difficulty I might have playing was NOT attributed to poorly aligned teeth. That had the effect of increasing my self-confidence because when I thought about it, there really was not any reason why I couldn't learn to play the trombone at least as well as any other average guy and so I approached it accordingly.

...Geezer
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patrickosmith

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« Reply #10 on: Jun 19, 2017, 04:06AM »

Here's an update on my progress with Invisalign. My treatment plan called for a total of 42 "trays" to be changed every 2 weeks. Doing the math, that's a total duration of 84 weeks or ~1.6 years. I started on October 12, 2016 and I will be free on May 23, 2018 assuming that I maintain the two-week interval. As of today's date, I'm about 40% through my treatment plan.

Here are my observations/plans so far.

1) When I started the treatment, I went in cold turkey on the trombone by playing exclusively with these things attached. For optimum results, the trays must be worn in place for 22 out of 24 hours a day. Given that one cannot eat or drink (anything but water) with the trays in place --and that after eating food one must floss and brush-- there isn't any time left for playing trombone. So for the past 8 months I've been playing with this handicap. Playing with these things attached to my teeth is sort of like playing after your lips have been partially numbed with novocaine from a dental service. The contact between the lips and the mouthpiece/instrument is less direct and somewhat removed.

2) I immediately lost endurance and range but my endurance was back to where it was within a few months for the most part.

3) I've lost some range and quality of sound in what I consider my upper register (which really isn't all that high). Instead of being comfortable playing an ascending scale approaching a high B-flat  I'm only comfortable doing the same toward an F above the staff  Alto Clef  .

4) I've had to re-learn *again*. Honestly, this is my umpteenth time. But here are good parts of this. First, I'm actually (still) learning and reinforcing important knowledge on how to play as a struggling player. I find this information to be invaluable. Secondly, there is no pressure of time to improve. I've already accepted the set back of a couple of years. I feel free to experiment without consequence of lost time. I've found that this "experimentation" improves both my learning/practicing skills as well as execution/performance skills but the gains take months to become apparent.

5) At this the 40% mark, and with about a year to go, my front teeth are now pretty straight. I've noticed that the mouthpiece no longer digs into the teeth the way it had been doing for so long. The rest of the treatment will correct my cross bite and will continue to straighten the teeth into a more stable configuration. So, I plan to begin playing trombone without the trays in place for some time each day. I will gradually increase the daily time playing 'naked' (without the trays) so that when the trays are finally out, I won't be returning completely cold turkey.

It is unclear at this point whether I will gain anything "extra" out of my two years play "on trays." It would be really nice if there were some unexpected benefit to my embouchure in endurance, range, articulation,or whatever. But, I don't expect anything benefit at this point in my bipolar embouchure journey.
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Geezerhorn

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« Reply #11 on: Jun 19, 2017, 04:23AM »

After enduring those "trays" for 2 years, will you have to wear a "retainer" for another period of time to give the teeth time to completely anchor and prevent them from moving back?

And who says learning how to play the trombone doesn't change a person!

...Geezer
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« Reply #12 on: Jun 19, 2017, 06:06AM »

My teeth aren't perfect, a bit of a lopsided V in the front. Most of the screech trumpet players I've known have had a big V in front. Lots of brass players with imperfect teeth. I've played through my wisdom teeth growing in. That was painful and shifted a
Everything. You'll be ok whether you leave it or fix it. Best of luck.
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kbiggs

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« Reply #13 on: Jun 19, 2017, 07:12AM »

I had Invisalign orthodontics several years ago. I had braces as a teenager, and some of my front teeth had shifted despite wearing a retainer for years afterwards. I chose Invisalign precisely because I could take the trays out while playing.

Warning: advice ahead.

I understand that you want to adhere to your orthodontic treatment plan, and I see that you are "cross training," gradually playing without the trays and slowly increasing the time. However, were you planning to continue playing with the trays in your mouth once your teeth have moved into a satisfactory alignment? I doubt it. By "cross training" (playing both with and without the trays) you're practicing under two vastly different circumstances. I might even say that you are using two vastly different embouchures.

Playing "naked," without the trays, your embouchure will change slowly over time as your teeth adjust. That's far easier to handle than playing 10% without trays 90% with, then 20% without and 80% with, 30% and 70%... see what I mean?

Do yourself a favor. Take the trays out when you practice. You might only have 20 hours per day with the trays in your mouth. In my mind, a little extended treatment time is well worth the trade-off: less frustration and "embouchure confusion." Besides, which is more important: 100% treatment compliance, or productive, satisfying and less frustrating practice time?
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« Reply #14 on: Jun 19, 2017, 09:56AM »

In desperation, I fixed my "classic" English teeth overbite problem by pushing my lower jaw out and holding it at the point of pain for about 5 minutes a few times a day. After a few weeks it stopped hurting and my jaw has settled into a new resting position, with my upper and lower set more aligned.
I've also had my top and bottom front teeth levelled.
No regrets about any of this, I wish that I'd done it decades ago, and the only minus is a slightly reduced lower range and weight. The plus has been a more stable attack and tone, and a much better recovery after long regular sets.

Better late than never IMO..
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« Reply #15 on: Jun 19, 2017, 10:06AM »

In desperation, I fixed my "classic" English teeth overbite problem by pushing my lower jaw out and holding it at the point of pain for about 5 minutes a few times a day. After a few weeks it stopped hurting and my jaw has settled into a new resting position, with my upper and lower set more aligned.
I've also had my top and bottom front teeth levelled.
No regrets about any of this, I with that I'd done it decades ago, and the only minus is a slightly reduced lower range and weight. The plus has been a more stable attack and tone, and a much better recovery after long regular sets.

Better late than never IMO..

That's interesting. What is the angle of your horn when you play? Down, level, up? And are you a down-stream or an up-stream player?

...Geezer
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« Reply #16 on: Jun 19, 2017, 01:20PM »

That's interesting. What is the angle of your horn when you play? Down, level, up? And are you a down-stream or an up-stream player?

...Geezer

Hard to say without a protractor, but higher than before, and I don't have any pressure to play in any way other than what's comfortable for me. By that I mean because I only play in a big-band maybe once a year max and the rest of the time it's all small group gigs, I haven't had to adapt to playing over a desk in a "bell up" manner.

Definitely down stream.

PM on it's way..
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patrickosmith

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« Reply #17 on: Jun 20, 2017, 03:12AM »

I had Invisalign orthodontics several years ago. I had braces as a teenager, and some of my front teeth had shifted despite wearing a retainer for years afterwards. I chose Invisalign precisely because I could take the trays out while playing.

Warning: advice ahead.

I understand that you want to adhere to your orthodontic treatment plan, and I see that you are "cross training," gradually playing without the trays and slowly increasing the time. However, were you planning to continue playing with the trays in your mouth once your teeth have moved into a satisfactory alignment? I doubt it. By "cross training" (playing both with and without the trays) you're practicing under two vastly different circumstances. I might even say that you are using two vastly different embouchures.

Playing "naked," without the trays, your embouchure will change slowly over time as your teeth adjust. That's far easier to handle than playing 10% without trays 90% with, then 20% without and 80% with, 30% and 70%... see what I mean?

Do yourself a favor. Take the trays out when you practice. You might only have 20 hours per day with the trays in your mouth. In my mind, a little extended treatment time is well worth the trade-off: less frustration and "embouchure confusion." Besides, which is more important: 100% treatment compliance, or productive, satisfying and less frustrating practice time?

My initial thinking was the same as yours ... just take them out to play. But I experimented with them in and it wasn't too bad. And after shelling out $6K upfront cash out of pocket, I chose to stick with the treatment plan as best I could. The cross bite correction is lengthy. I am choosing to face and embrace the struggle and to learn from it. I am lucky in that not I don't have to perform in front of a paying audience in the present and near-term time frame. So, the pressure for perfection is gone by the desire is still there. Quite liberating.
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« Reply #18 on: Jun 20, 2017, 06:42PM »

Another fascinating TTF discussion !  I hope my recollections will be useful to those struggling with imperfect dental alignment. 
   I still recall the first time that the principal trombonist in the NSO showed me his lower teeth, which were a "gaggle" of misaligned teeth that caused me to wonder how anyone could play with such a handicap.  Regardless, the amazing sound and technique that this guy could produce was amazing !  His success gave me a lot of confidence that my "irregularities" need not be debilitating.  The principal trombonist ? ---- John Marcellus ---- one of the greats of the trombone world.
   When I was accepted as a student at the Eastman School of Music, I entered with euphonium as my principal instrument.  I owned a Conn 20-I Bell-Front {baritone horn] euphonium and studied with Donald Knaub [RIP].  After a brief period, I moved up to a Besson euphonium [NOT a baritone horn] and was thrilled by the improvement [for about a week] when I noticed a rapid deterioration of every aspect of my playing --- sound, range, articulation --- you name it !  At first, my reaction was to throw myself off the nearest bridge until I realized that the bell-front horn concentrated its weight bias towards the left side of the embouchure and the Besson upright configuration concentrated its weight bias to the right side of the embouchure.  With that realization in hand, it was a simple matter to make the appropriate corrections and it led to a happy ending.  I did realize, however, that since I'd played a bell-front horn for all of my "formative" years, that my dental configuration was forced into a left-centric posture and that would be a "forever" kind of thing [sort of like the Japanese "art" of foot-binding] .  I purposely omitted mention of the Spanish method of producing "Jardineros" for the amusement of the King in deference to the cruelty required for a few royal laughs.  "Google" it if you are curious.  Both foot-binding and jardineros were inflicted during early formative periods and were not reversible.   When I switched to being a trombonist, I still favored that left-centric posture and was very successful in doing so.  When an injury ended my orchestral career, there was a 20 years hiatus during which I discovered the ErgoBone, which enabled me to play once again. Starting with a clean sheet of paper and my previous experiences, I was determined that this time I would do everything "Right" !  That meant placing the mouthpiece in a central position so that everything would be balanced and in as symmetrical an arrangement as possible.  It worked ---- to an extent ---- and then, one day, I decided to move the mouthpiece slightly to the left where my teeth had been "trained" to be since my high-school days.  Amazing !!   Everything --- I mean EVERYTHING --- became far easier,  Tone focused, articulations were clearer and flexibility [never my strong suite] improved.
   I guess that what I am saying is that we are all different in different ways and that we must use those differences in the best way possible to achieve our respective ends.  Much like handicapped individuals, deprived of the normal function of one limb or of one sense will compensate in a spectacular fashion by concentrating on the development of another limb or sense to even surpass what most of us would consider to be normal.   Blind individuals who have incredible hearing capabilities and paraplegics who learn to paint or type using their feet are two examples which come to mind.  There is NO perfect physical configuration that will guarantee a superior result when trying to extract glorious sounds from a contrary, tubular contraption like the trombone and we should get used to that, because it's the truth !
   To the fellow who had the habit of thrusting his jaw forward --- I sympathize.  I found it to be useful, again, during my formative years, but when my jaw began making "clicking" noises and the dentist said that it would be necessary to open the joint of the jaw to scrape the channel where the two jawbones intersect to correct the problem, I immediately stopped protruding my jaw when playing.  I think it's called self preservation !
   That's my "Two bits".   Thanks for listening ---  Cheers to all !!   Bob
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patrickosmith

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« Reply #19 on: Jun 20, 2017, 08:20PM »

Another fascinating TTF discussion !  I hope my recollections will be useful to those struggling with imperfect dental alignment.
--snip--
   That's my "Two bits".   Thanks for listening ---  Cheers to all !!   Bob

That's quite the story. Thanks for sharing!
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« Reply #20 on: Jun 21, 2017, 12:41AM »


In desperation, I fixed my "classic" English teeth overbite problem by pushing my lower jaw out and holding it at the point of pain for about 5 minutes a few times a day. After a few weeks it stopped hurting and my jaw has settled into a new resting position, with my upper and lower set more aligned.
I've also had my top and bottom front teeth levelled.
No regrets about any of this, I wish that I'd done it decades ago, and the only minus is a slightly reduced lower range and weight. The plus has been a more stable attack and tone, and a much better recovery after long regular sets.

Better late than never IMO..



To the fellow who had the habit of thrusting his jaw forward --- I sympathize.  I found it to be useful, again, during my formative years, but when my jaw began making "clicking" noises and the dentist said that it would be necessary to open the joint of the jaw to scrape the channel where the two jawbones intersect to correct the problem, I immediately stopped protruding my jaw when playing.  I think it's called self preservation !


I'm not sure if you're referring to me, but if so I'd like to reaffirm that nothing but good has come from this. I have no residual pains or issues whatsoever from this, what started out as an experiment ended up as a game changer.
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« Reply #21 on: Jun 21, 2017, 04:50AM »


I'm not sure if you're referring to me, but if so I'd like to reaffirm that nothing but good has come from this. I have no residual pains or issues whatsoever from this, what started out as an experiment ended up as a game changer.

My experience was more subtle than Bob's, with the temporomandibular joint issues.  Although, now that I think on it, that joint has not been terribly well behaved for me even after reverting to my "natural" bite.

The problem was chronic use.  I spent so many hours a day with my jaw misaligned that it threw off my bite.  For players who DO adjust their jaws it is likely worth asking the dentist to check occlusion SPECIFICALLY.  If jaw shifts can be attained WITHOUT making them a habit, then no harm should come to the occlusion (matching of teeth, especially molars.)  If jaw shifts become a habit, the problem can show up years after the habit is well-set.

It is much better to keep ahead of this if you DO shift your jaw.  Last I looked, there weren't any cheap or even very effective ways of undoing damage to the temporomandibular.  And as I mentioned in my previous post, I suspect the occlusion adjustments I had to accomodate the shift, then accomodate going back, contributed to some very expensive crown work decades later.

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« Reply #22 on: Jun 21, 2017, 05:36AM »

I've made this post before, but since there is a thread dedicated to this subject:

I have had all of my front upper & lower teeth capped and re-aligned. It made an over-night difference. No, I didn't immediately start me wailing like James Morrison, but the difference was a more unified lip support and it made tone, flexibility and higher range a little easier. I believe it also impacted my endurance positively b/c I didn't have to work quite as hard to achieve the same level; possibly due to increased comfort and more consistency of play. It did not mitigate the necessity of seeking private instruction, however. lol

In the end, probably nothing takes the place of dedicated work under expert tutelage. But straight teeth can make a difference in comfort - if nothing else. And if comfort is increased, then presumably so might performance.

Anyway, I think it's safe to state that if we all had our pick of teeth structure, we would all pick even alignment over crookedness and possibly then dicker over other configurations. The only exception might be someone who - with crooked teeth - has managed to reach a very high level of play and does not want to gamble on derailment. I wouldn't blame them.

If SpongeBob Squarepants was an actual human, he might look something like this...



Just look at those "trombone teeth"!!!!

...Geezer
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