Braces are commonly used to straighten teeth that aren’t in alignment.

If you or your child need braces, the process can be expensive, time-consuming, and inconvenient. But corrective dental braces do have a high rate of success, and they leave you with oral health benefits that go beyond a perfect smile.

Braces are most often prescribed during childhood or early adolescence. Adults are also getting braces more frequently. In fact, 20 percent of people with braces today are adults.

If you believe you or a family member could benefit from braces, it’s better to know sooner rather than later. This article will cover the signs that can indicate a person needs braces, as well as info that will help you decide on next steps.

The signs that an adult needs braces can vary according to age and overall dental health.

Adult braces are becoming increasingly common, and outcomes from adult braces are mostly positive.

A 1998 survey concluded that needing braces is more common than not needing them, estimating that only 35 percent of adults have properly aligned teeth.

Symptoms that can indicate you need braces include:

  • teeth that are visibly crooked or crowded
  • difficulty flossing between and brushing around crooked teeth
  • frequently biting your tongue or cutting your tongue on your teeth
  • teeth that don’t close over each other properly when your mouth is at rest
  • difficulty pronouncing certain sounds due to your tongue’s position under your teeth
  • jaws that click or make noises when you chew or first wake up
  • stress or fatigue on your jawline after chewing food

If your child needs braces, it can be a little more difficult to tell. If a child has baby teeth that are crooked or crowded, it can be a sign that they will need braces in the future.

Other signs include:

  • breathing through the mouth
  • jaws that click or make other sounds
  • being prone to biting the tongue, roof of the mouth, or inside of the cheek accidentally
  • thumb-sucking or using a pacifier past the age of 2
  • early or late loss of baby teeth
  • teeth that don’t come together even when the mouth is shut completely
  • teeth that are crooked or crowded

Poor nutrition during the infant and toddler stage, poor dental hygiene, and genetics are all reasons why children (and adults) may end up needing braces.

The American Academy of Orthodontics recommends that all children have an appointment with an orthodontist no later than age 7. The logic behind this recommendation is that when a need for braces is identified, early treatment can improve outcomes.

Even children with no visible crowding or slant to their teeth can benefit from a check-in with an orthodontist.

The best age for getting braces varies from person to person. Most of the time, treatment with braces begins between the ages of 9 and 14, once children start to get their permanent teeth.

But for some people, treatment with braces as a child is just not possible. Whether because of expense, inconvenience, or lack of diagnosis, many people have to put off orthodontic treatment until their adult years.

Technically, you’re never too old for braces. However, that doesn’t mean you should continue to put off treatment.

Whenever you’re ready to pursue treatment for crowded or crooked teeth, you can schedule an appointment. You usually don’t need a referral from a dentist to make an appointment with an orthodontist.

Remember that as you age, your jaw will continue to grow, which can cause an increased crowding or narrowing of your teeth. If you wait on treating an overbite or crooked teeth, the problem won’t improve or resolve itself.

The sooner you can speak with a professional about getting braces, the better.

Metal braces, ceramic braces, and invisible braces are the most common types of teeth straightening treatments.

The only real alternative to orthodontic braces is teeth straightening surgery.

This surgery can be a minor procedure to change the way your teeth are aligned in your mouth. It can also be a more serious process whereby your jaw is surgically realigned to better accommodate speaking and chewing.

Crooked and crowded teeth are the traditional telltale sign that you or your child might need braces.

But having crooked teeth or an overbite isn’t the only sign that can indicate that braces are needed. It’s also a myth that you need to wait until all of a child’s adult teeth come in to determine if that child needs braces.

Braces are a costly investment.

There is a difference in wanting braces for cosmetic reasons and needing braces for continued oral health. Speak to a dentist about the possibility of needing braces if you have any of the symptoms listed above.