When I was a kid I broke my front teeth and got temporary caps. In high school I resisted getting braces because I was afraid they’d set me back, and competition for Allstate was pretty fierce. I don’t really regret that, because even if I’d pursued a career, there would have been time to do braces later when I would have been pursuing virtuosity rather than competition.
But when that convenient time came, when I was otherwise occupied and not playing for a few years, I didn’t have insurance. I finally got my teeth fixed in my forties, and it went badly. The new crowns looked great and were strong enough to play, but I couldn’t get air into the horn. They were too big; they were a wall.
So after looking at the “before” X-rays, and bringing the horn in to the dentist’s office, we fixed it. First, I’d always had a gap between my front teeth. I’ve seen discussions about whether a gap helps with high range, usually ending with the interview from Maynard where he says he got his gap fixed. The dentist looked at the mouthpiece and at how I was playing—she wished that I had see-through mouthpiece and lips—and concluded I needed only a very small gap at the bottom, about 1/8”. It doesn’t matter if the front teeth are closed up closer to the gums because air doesn’t go through there.
The other problem was just that the teeth were too long, so they made contact with the lower lip too easily. That was a simple matter of grinding a bit off the bottom. She explained that it was a really tiny amount, well under a millimeter. We went in stages, shaving a bit and then playing some more notes.
After the initial surgery, I was too sore to play for several days and really couldn’t do much for a couple weeks. So even when we fixed it, I couldn’t make a judgment on finer points of technique. Also, of course, I had to adjust my embouchure, so I practiced etudes for a couple months and finally went back to get a little more taken off and to make the gap a little wider.
I am still missing a few notes off the top of the range, but other than that things work about as well as before I made drastic changes to the landscape of my mouth.