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Some years ago I was a pretty hot alto player but the guitar was always my first instrument and I have been a busy pro for much of my working life. I had to drop the horn.

Now I am thinking of playing again. But time hasn't been kind to my teeth. The dentist tells me I will need a denture very soon - as soon as finances and time allows.

Am I going to be able to play with a denture? Are there special dentures for musicians? I know that one option is dental implants. I'm told that these are just as good as having your own teeth. The problem is they are about $5000 per tooth; I just can't afford it.

  • Possibility of off-setting the cost against tax? As a pro player, it's feasible. Which teeth? If it's top, there shouldn't be a problem, as they don't bite the mouthpiece. – Tim Jun 29 '18 at 6:41
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    Have you asked the dentist for his/her thoughts? They may not know a lot about music but I bet they know a lot about teeth. ;) also they may have encountered this before and most likely have access to resources that will have a good answer. – b3ko Jun 29 '18 at 12:02
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There are certainly cost-benefit trades here. One significant benefit to choosing implants is that the shape of your oral cavity remains unchanged. If you go with any kind of denture which includes a plate (covering part or all of the upper palate), the volume and shape of the cavity will change, and that can affect air flow.

In any case, I strongly recommend talking with medical professionals rather than random strangers on the internet whose tooth problems may or may not be similar to your own.

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I don't know much about dentures, but I have had lots of dental work done on myself.

When you get dentures, you're embouchure is going to change big time and it's gonna be hard to play. But on the bright side, that is your new embouchure. As you continue to play, you're going to adjust. It'll be like doing tone work all over again. In your head you're going to hear the tone that you want, and, using your ear and mouth/throat/embouchure, you're going to adjust over time.

It's gonna probably suck at first because it'll feel weird and you're tone will probably be pretty cruddy. But you will adjust and you'll be back to normal.

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I'm not a wind player but I do have long term experience (40 years) with dentures.

In my personal experience a full set "work" better than a partial set. I have a full set with a metal plate (which is a stainless steel casting) and they are as rock-solid as normal teeth. In fact at the first fitting of the plate, it "stuck" in place so firmly it took the dentist about 10 minutes to remove it! I wear them 24/7/365 and basically never think about them. The plate has also lasted "for ever" - it's now more than 30 years old and works as well as when new.

They are held in place by the surface tension in the saliva which fills the (tiny) gap between the plate and the mouth structure - not by being a mechanical "tight fit". The thinner the saliva layer (i.e. the more accurate the fit) the firmer the grip.

From my personal experience I think a mixture of natural teeth and individual implants may be more problematic, since natural teeth move around in the gums as a person ages, but implants do not. Certainly, partial denture plates don't work so well, since as the natural teeth grow and move the shape of the gums changes and the fit with the denture plate becomes worse.

Note also, in the UK you can get a "full set of implants" which is effectively a denture attached to only 3 or 4 fixing points in the jaw, not a separate implant for each tooth. That should reduce the costs compared with "individual tooth implants" - but I don't know anything about the US healthcare cost structure (except that, viewed from the rest of the world, it seems extortionate).

Some of these options may involve removing healthy teeth - which is an irreversible procedure, of course. Professional advice, both musical and dental, would seem a very wise course to take.

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Just to add my two cents, my fiancé had to get dentures both top and bottom. The first six months are rough for here because her gums are swollen and constantly having to go in and get them re fitted as the swelling goes down. But there’s a couple alternatives. They now have dentures where they surgically add titanium rods in your mouth where the dentures snap in and off like a button on your clothes. There is also glue you use so they stay in your mouth all day long and I guarantee you have no worries about “blowing the horn again” after the procedure. If you go the more exspensive route then there’s always porcelain veneers?

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