When to See an Orthodontist

If you have any questions or concerns about the spacing, position, or alignment of your teeth, you should seek out an orthodontist for a consultation. Here are some issues an orthodontist may be able to address.

Reasons to See an Orthodontist

Visible Teeth Misplacement

Crowded, protruding, misplaced, or spaces between teeth may be easy to see and something you’d like to be remedied. 

Misaligned Bite

Sometimes the jaw may be positioned correctly but the teeth are not lining up properly. When the teeth do not match as they should, biting and chewing may be difficult – even painful! It is also possible that the jaw has become misaligned and that is what is causing your bite to be off. An orthodontist will be able to determine if your jaw is in fact positioned correctly or if further treatments need to be done. 

Speech Impediments

While some children clarify their speech later in life than their peers, a speech impediment might be due to the misplacement of teeth. This can affect how the tongue interacts inside the mouth and can result in muscle atrophy or over dominance in the mouth as an effort to compensate. Taking care of such an issue early on is always better than trying to remedy the problem after speaking habits have been formed. 

Discomfort 

If you are experiencing pain in your jaw, gums, pallet, tongue, or cheeks, an orthodontist may be able to help. Misaligned teeth may be leading you to inadvertently and repeatedly bite your tongue or cheek. Teeth that are growing in – or erupting – at an angle or are being blocked by other teeth may cause you pain in any number of areas inside your mouth that may be remedied with orthodontic procedures. Be sure to check with your dentist to make sure you do not have any cavities or other infections that could also be causing discomfort in your mouth. 

Mouth Breathing

Even if you have not noticed, you may be breathing through your mouth and not your nose because of orthodontic issues. Of course there are a myriad of other reasons why you might be a mouth breather, but be sure to let your orthodontist know if you tend to breathe more through your mouth than your nose. There could be an underlying issue. 

Teeth Grinding

It is possible that you grind your teeth not simply out of frustration or habit, but because your teeth are not properly aligned. Orthodontic treatment may be able to help. 

Mouth Agape

Is it uncomfortable or difficult for you to close your lips? Your teeth might be to blame. Image how nice it would be to not have to concentrate or deal with pain when closing your lips. Be sure to let your orthodontist know if you struggle with this. 

Asymmetrical Face

Believe it or not, your teeth can actually throw off your entire face! Some features may appear misshapen or out of place due to your teeth changing the shape of your jaw or pressing on other areas. While an orthodontist might not be the first professional you turn to when you think your face is imbalanced, it is worth bringing up during a consultation – especially if it makes you uncomfortable. Orthodontics is intended to not only make you healthier but to also enhance your self-image.

Seeking Treatment

Now that we have reviewed why you might want to seek out an orthodontist, you  may be considering if treatment should be started in children, or if it is better to wait until adulthood. Here is some information on orthodontic treatments for children and for adults: 

Orthodontic Treatments for Children

The American Academy of Orthodontists advises that children are seen by an orthodontist by the age of 7. While this may seem young – or old! – at this age there is a very large tooth development disparity. Some issues may seem like nothing or not even be detectable, while others that appear to be problematic are in fact all part of growing up. An orthodontist is highly trained to discern whether or not there is an issue that should be addressed or if the child simply needs some time for the issue to resolve itself. Many issues are much easier to rectify if treatment starts in earlier stages – and may even take less time than if the issue had developed further. 

By taking early steps more invasive procedures can be avoided in the future. For instance, if there seems to be no space for all the teeth in the child’s upper jaw to come in naturally without overlapping, a palette extender can be implemented to help make room as the child grows for the teeth to erupt without overcrowding. If such measures are not taken when the child is young and growing, oral surgery may be required later in life to treat the overcrowding and jaw issues. 

Early detection makes treatment much easier – and frequently quicker. But just because the child first goes to an orthodontist at the age of 6 or 7, that does not mean orthodontic treatments will commence right away. Most children do not begin regular orthodontic treatment until between the ages of 9 and 14. If the child was a thumbsucker past the age of 3, lost baby teeth very early or very late, is a mouth breather, or has tongue thrusting issues, it’s best to have an early screening done to better understand when and what orthodontic treatments should commence. 

Orthodontic Treatments for Adults

Whether or not you had braces as a child, you may want to have an orthodontic screening done as an adult. Why might you seek a consultation? If you are self-conscious at all about your smile or are concerned that your teeth may have shifted over time and are causing problems, book an appointment to see an orthodontist. 

Orthodontic treatments are not just for children. As of 2019, the American Association of Orthodontists has stated that 25% of orthodontic patients are adults. With so many advances in recent times, orthodontic treatments are much more comfortable and less noticeable than ever before. There are many options that are specifically designed with materials to minimize their appearance. 

Just because you are older, that does not necessarily mean your treatment will take longer than it does for children. Older patients tend to be more compliant with at home care and instructions, which can result in a shortened active treatment period. 

It is important to address any orthodontic issues you may have. When misaligned teeth are left untreated plenty of dental issues may arise over time including gum disease, tooth decay, premature wearing, and difficulties chewing. Be proactive and take steps today to get treated for a better tomorrow!