What instrument do you play? Is your oral hygiene at risk?

By March 23, 2016 November 30th, 2018 General Dentistry

The March/April 2011 issue of the journal General Dentistry revealed that if not kept clean, wind instruments can become heavily contaminated with bacteria and fungi that are associated with serious to minor infections in the mouth, on the lips, and skin, and as allergic diseases.

Why the concern?

Children often obtain used instruments for school music or band classes. Adults frequent pawn shops or online advertisements for affordable instruments. Some people have instruments at home that they loan to friends or family.

The study tested the mouthpiece, chambers, cases, and other components of 131 used woodwind and brass instruments. 442 bacteria were found, including staphylococcus. 58 molds and 19 yeasts were also identified. Many of the bacteria found are highly resistant to commonly prescribed antibiotics.

In September 2010, Chest® Journal, the official publication of the American College of Chest Physicians, reported that “respiratory physicians should be aware of the risk of hypersensitivity pneumonitis in saxophone or perhaps other wind instrument players.” The problem is due, in part, to colonization of potentially pathogenic molds in a wind instrument. A complimentary investigation of 15 saxophones found that 13 of the 15 instruments showed a fungal colonization.

If you buy a used wind instrument, or have one that is on loan, that hasn’t been properly sanitized, it likely contains bacteria from someone else’s mouth. The bacteria can remain weeks—or even months—after the last use.

The lessons:

  • Don’t share your instruments with others—particularly if they are instruments that come in contact with your mouth or face.
  • When you obtain a used instrument, take it apart, and thoroughly cleaned it in its entirety—not just the mouthpiece.
  • Frequently clean the part of the instrument that comes in contact with the skin and mouth.
  • Take it apart regularly to thoroughly clean it.

If you suspect that you’ve received oral contamination from an unclean instrument, schedule an appointment with your dentist. If you think your health in general has been affected, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician.

This post is sponsored by Naperville dentist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.