When to See an Orthodontist

Bins containing 3M elastomeric ties in many different colors.

Many people who have considered improving their smiles or the smiles of their children wonder when to see an orthodontist. This is a commonly asked question that has several answers. 

General Guidelines on When to See an Orthodontist

Generally speaking, you should schedule an orthodontic appointment whenever you have a question about how your teeth are aligned or when you are concerned with the quality of your bite. Sometimes, such a problem is very obvious. For example, you may have crowded, misplaced, misaligned or protruding teeth or you may find it difficult to chew or speak properly.

Other orthodontic issues/problems are not so obvious. Some signs that could indicate that you need to see an orthodontist include:

  • You regularly breathe through your mouth 
  • You grind your teeth routinely 
  • You cannot open or close your mouth comfortably
  • Your jaws shift or make sounds when they move
  • You unintentionally bite the inside of your cheeks
  • You have facial features which are not in proportion with others 

When Should My Child See an Orthodontist

Our practice agrees with the recommendation made by the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), which states all children should receive their first orthodontic evaluation by the age of 7. By the time a child reaches this age, the bite is established so that an orthodontist can determine whether or not there will be sufficient room in the mouth to accommodate the permanent teeth. This is also when an orthodontist can spot potential problems early and treat those problems if necessary to make treatment less involved later in life and less expensive as well.

That said, most children do not begin active orthodontic treatment until they are between the ages of 9 and 14. There are some common problems seen in children that can benefit from orthodontic treatment including: 

  • Early or late loss of baby teeth 
  • A thumb or finger sucking habit
  • Tongue thrusting 
  • Mouth breathing 

If your child has any of these problems or habits, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with our office so we can provide your child with an examination. It is important to note that just because your child is being seen by an orthodontist now, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she will need to begin treatment right away.

In addition to these general guidelines, there are some very specific recommendations regarding when children should be seen by an orthodontist.  

When orthodontic problems are detected when a child is young, it is much easier to treat problems because the child is still growing. For example, if a child is diagnosed with a crossbite (where the upper teeth close inside the lower teeth), a palatal expander can be used to correct this problem. If this problem were to go untreated, the child could require oral surgery later in life. 

Adult Orthodontics

Now that you know when to bring your child in for an orthodontic evaluation, it’s time to learn when you should be seen by an orthodontist. Are you self-conscious about your smile because your teeth are out of alignment? Do you routinely cover your mouth when around other people to hide your smile? If so, this is a great time for you to take the first step toward improving your smile by giving our office a call! Our Chapel Hill orthodontists will provide you with a thorough exam followed by a discussion of your potential treatment options, which could be anything from conventional metal braces to clear removable aligners. 

A breakdown of the different types of brace types.

When to See An Orthodontist as Adults

While some people believe that orthodontic treatment is something that’s just for children and teenagers, the truth is that teeth can be successfully moved at any age. Nowadays, it is common for adults to be in orthodontic treatment. There are many treatment options, which are perfect for adults who don’t want to wear visible metal braces including translucent ceramic braces, and Invisalign clear aligners. 

Adult orthodontic treatment is about much more than just improving your looks. When your teeth are properly aligned, they are easier to clean for better oral hygiene and dental health. A proper bite can also help you chew food more efficiently and speak clearly.

Stop Wondering When to See an Orthodontist: Schedule Your First Visit Today 

If you’re ready to schedule your first visit with us, please complete the Appointment Request form. One of our friendly team members will then contact you to set up your appointment time. We look forward to seeing you soon and helping you achieve that amazing smile you both need and deserve! 

 Related Articles

The Magic of Orthodontics Proper alignment of the teeth is basic to “Smile Design.” Their position dictates how they work together and affects the way you look and smile. Only orthodontic treatment can move teeth into the right position. Simply put, when things look right, they probably are right. Learn the basics of smile analysis and design and whether the magic of orthodontics will work for you… Read Article


Orthodontics for the Older Adult Healthy teeth can be moved at any age, so there’s no such thing as “too old” for braces. In fact, nowadays about one out of every five orthodontic patients is an adult. Yet this figure represents only a small portion of adults who could actually benefit from orthodontic treatment… Read Article


Early Orthodontic Evaluation Early detection of orthodontic problems in young children may make it easier to correct those problems in the long run. Waiting until all of the permanent (adult) teeth have come in, or until facial growth is nearly complete, may make correction of some problems more difficult or even impossible. An early childhood orthodontic evaluation can yield excellent results… Read Article