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Since I started playing the saxophone, I've always been told that you are to never play the saxophone if you have eaten recently. I was told the reason for this was that (if any) the sugar on your teeth would damage the mouthpiece and reed.

This makes sense to me, so every time, before I play, I brush my teeth. However, I started to wonder if that was an equally bad idea.

Is toothpaste and/or mouthwash bad for the reed or mouthpiece?

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My son plays saxophone and his band teacher is very careful about giving instructions for home practice. He hasn't said anything about risks coming from toothpaste or mouthwash. Also this sax forum stresses getting rid of the food particles but doesn't warn about damage from the cleaning substances: http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?7159-Proper-Reed-Care-and-Cleaning

My son's band teacher told me that the most important things to maximize the life of a reed are to soak it for a few minutes before playing, and to handle it carefully.

How about if you make sure to rinse your mouth thoroughly after brushing?

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I don't think this is a big deal. I don't think that brushing/using mouthwash is necessary, just washing out your mouth to get the food out of your mouth should be enough. In fact, it's sometimes recommended to soak your reed in mouthwash if it starts to smell bad.

As long as you aren't using a VERY sugary/basic substance, it should be fine.

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Mouthwash contains alcohol, right? That makes me worry that alcohol vapor in my breath may break down the glue that holds the pads in place over time. Maybe a way round this would be to wash 15-20 minutes in advance of playing so the alcohol can evaporate.

Also, if any of the residual abrasive in toothpaste gets into your instrument and builds up... it can't be good, right? Thoroughly rinsing out your mouth with water several times before playing is probably a good idea in the case of both mouthwash and toothpaste.

All that being said, I do not know, I'm just voicing my fears, and I'm going to have to do more research.

  • These are interesting points. I'd like to see if anyone has the same thoughts. – SirPython Nov 4 '16 at 2:20
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I'd like to contribute, that for double reed instruments you are recommended to brush your teeth before playing. It is not in any way to prevent chemical reactions, but to avoid blowing remainders of your meal into the instrument (so more physical reasons). I never heard of any damage to reed, pad glue (which would be sealing wax in most cases I know of) or instrument by alcohol / tooth paste / mouthwash, and given the amount of air one dilutes that chemistry with, I can't imagine the concentration is significant.

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Not sure if the chemicals would damage the instrument, but for brass instruments which use metal mouthpieces it has never been a problem for me. Incidentally I have found I play better when I brush my teeth, or maybe it just feels better to be clean.

Sweet drinks are definitely a no-no while I play though.

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