Prosthodontics, Implants, Cosmetic & Reconstructive Dentistry

How to Determine If You Need Braces

Every year millions of Americans invest in braces and other orthodontic treatment for health and aesthetic reasons. Well-aligned teeth not only make you feel more confident every time you talk or smile around people, but they are also easy to clean to maintain good oral health.

If you are curious or interested in knowing how to determine if you need braces, you are certainly not alone. At one time in your life, you may have to ask yourself this question for you or perhaps your children's oral health. To determine if it is the right time for you or your child to visit a dentist for braces, this article can help you make an informed decision.

Disclaimer: Tarzana Dental Care can assess patients for braces and give advice. We offer Invisalign at our office (not braces). Please note that the Dr. Zargarpour is not an orthodontist, but works closely with an orthodontist next door for patients that need complex orthodontic treatment and braces.

What are Braces, and How Do They Work?

Before you can determine whether you or your child need braces, you must understand what braces are and how they work to correct your smile and improve your oral health. Dental braces help an orthodontist or a dentist correct specific types of abnormal bites or malocclusions, like crowded or spaced teeth.

By moving every tooth to its ideal position, dental braces help create an appealing and attractive smile for adults and children. Dental braces work by applying pressure to the affected teeth using a metal known as an archwire attached to brackets glued across the teeth, moving them gradually over a predetermined time.

There are also rubber bands known as ligatures that go around these tiny brackets to assert more pressure on the teeth to improve their alignment with time. The entire process of correctly fixing the brackets and placing these archwires can take ten to twenty minutes, depending on your specific dental condition.

After fixing the braces, you may feel some tightness, which progresses to soreness because of the impact of archwires tightening your teeth into their ideal position. A dentist or orthodontist will recommend you to take over-the-counter (OTC) prescriptions to relieve the pain, which should disappear within four to six hours after your appointment.

Once your dental braces are in place correctly, you should schedule regular adjustment appointments with your dentists to ensure the braces are exerting the right pressure to correct your dental condition. Your dentist will evaluate and examine your teeth' movement during your adjustment appointment to determine if there is positive progress with the treatment.

While orthodontists might still use traditional metal braces for straightening patients' teeth, nowadays, dental braces are designed according to your interests and comfort in mind. For instance, depending on your specific underlying dental condition and your interest, the following types of braces might work out in your favor:

  • Lingual braces
  • Gold braces
  • Glow in the dark braces

Regardless of the type of dental braces you choose to wear, an orthodontic treatment plan using braces will consist of three crucial stages, that is:


Pre-treatment is the stage when an orthodontist or a dentist determines whether or not you are the right candidate for dental braces.

Active treatment

Active treatment is the stage when you actively wear your dental braces, and it can last for 24 months for fixed braces and one year for removable braces.


Retention is the final phase that happens after removing the dental braces. Most patients wear an orthodontic retainer after dental braces come off to ensure retention of the newly placed teeth in their ideal position.

Apart from maintaining your teeth alignment and keeping your smile looking good, dental braces also keep your gums, teeth, and oral cavity healthy. In the next sub-topic, we will discuss how to determine if you need braces for you or your children.

How to Determine If You Need Braces

If you believe you or your kid might benefit from dental braces, it is better to know sooner to retain a dentist's services. It is advisable to regularly visit a dentist to notice any dental problem that may require braces later in life. Here are signs that can help you determine if you need braces or not:

Teeth Crowding

Teeth crowding is a common dental issue addressed by dentists in orthodontic care. When there is insufficient space in your mouth to accommodate your teeth, you are experiencing teeth crowding or crowded teeth. People can also experience teeth crowding due to injuries, genetics, or premature loss of baby teeth.

Teeth crowding is a dental condition that can make you feel self-conscious when you socialize with your friends, preventing you from smiling or laughing like others. Also, crowded teeth can pose a risk of dental and general health problems because they trap food, making it difficult to remove it through regular daily teeth cleaning methods.

As a result of not keeping your teeth clean, bacteria can accumulate, causing gum disease, tooth decay, and bad breath. Fortunately, you don't have to worry about this dental condition because you can move the teeth to their ideal position over time using customized dental braces of your choice.

Improper Bite/Bite issues

To know if you have improper bite issues, you should look at the relationship between your lower teeth and top teeth. An improper bite or bite issues arise when the upper and lower jaw are in anatomically incorrect positions, making your lower or top teeth overlap each other when at rest.

Apart from making it hard for you to chew food, improper bites can also cause jaw issues (TMJ pain), irregular wear of your teeth, speaking problems, and chronic headaches. If you or your kid is experiencing these symptoms, you should seek reliable dentist’s services within your residence area because dental braces can correct an improper bite.

Jaw Pain

Frequent Jaw pain and headaches are often due to a misaligned bite. Jaws that are not fitting together as supposed can easily slip out of place, causing tension when you are sleeping, which is painful. Jaw pain can also be due to a dental condition known as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.

TMJ disorder involves your body's temporomandibular joint, which connects your skull to your jawbone, acting much like a sliding hinge. When the sliding hinge mechanism, which usually connects your lower and upper jaw, isn't working as expected, you might experience severe pain in your jaw joints and muscles surrounding the area.

There are several orthodontic issues that you can't look in the mirror and notice with your naked eyes. Instead, you remain with uncomfortable pain in your mouth or jaw and uncertainty of what might be causing it.

Some jaw pain might be temporary, but it might not be temporary if you are regularly experiencing pain due to teeth misalignment. Looking into braces might be one remedy a dentist or an orthodontist would suggest to treat your painful jaws.

Difficulty Speaking or Eating

If it is becoming more difficult for you to speak clearly, you might have an orthodontic issue requiring a dentist's attention. The placement of the teeth in your mouth can significantly impact the ease of pronunciation and speech.

Misalignment of your teeth can also affect your ability to bite and chew food comfortably. If you are having trouble eating or frequently biting your gums or tongue, it might be due to teeth misalignment. It is worth talking to a reliable dentist to determine if these issues stem from dental or oral issues.

You Aren't Happy You When You Look at Your Smile in the Mirror

Most individuals opt to fix braces on their teeth because they are not happy with their smile when they look in the mirror. A lack of confidence in your smile due to crooked teeth can affect your social life and self-esteem.

When your adult teeth come in while baby teeth are still present or when your jaw is not spacious enough to accommodate adult teeth, the aesthetic appearance of your smile diminishes. Other times crooked teeth are due to genetics, and you might not be able to do anything about it.

If you realize you tend to cover your teeth or mouth with your hand when smiling or laughing with your friends, or maybe you are not a fan of your current teeth alignment, you should consider visiting a dentist for braces.

Dental braces have several cosmetic advantages and can make it possible to clean your mouth easily to prevent cavities and other plaque. Regardless of your age, dental braces can fix an embarrassing smile with the help of a dentist.

Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is a common behavior with young kids, but by the age of two years, a kid might quit the habit or not. Active thumb sucking accompanied by a lot of motion can cause damage to your kid's baby teeth, though this dental problem can correct itself as permanent teeth sprout in.

Persistent thumb sucking can affect your kid's permanent teeth alignment because of the repetitive pressure the thumb has on them. Apart from that, long term thumb sucking can also cause the following:

  • The sensitivity of the roof of a kid's mouth
  • Overbite, which is a dental condition where front teeth protrude from the mouth and jaw
  • Bite issues where the top and bottom teeth don't meet when the kid's mouth is at rest
  • Changes to the shape of your kid's jaw can affect the alignment of his/her teeth.

If your kid is already four years old, and he/she still frequently sucks his/her thumb, you should consult with a dentist for recommendations of strategies that can help him/her quit this unhealthy behavior. Consistent and vigorous thumb-sucking past this time can ruin the alignment of your kid's teeth and the shape of his/her mouth.

Gaps in Between Your Teeth

Gaps between your teeth often show that the lower and upper jaw do not fit together, a dental condition known as malocclusion. Gaps between your teeth can be due to thumb sucking, genetics or mouth tissue formation, or other conditions.

Fixing these gaps by use of braces does not only improve the aesthetic appearance of your smile, but it can also help you fix malocclusion issues. Gaps between your teeth also leave your gum exposed and at risk of inflammation and infection by bacteria. To determine if you or your kid needs braces to correct or close the gaps between your teeth, you should consult with a dentist within your location.

Available Braces Options for Straightening Your Teeth

Once you determine that you might need braces for teeth straightening, there are several options a dentist or orthodontist may recommend for your unique dental situation. The use of braces to straighten teeth is ideal for people of any age as long as they have gum and teeth strong enough to hold them.

The type of dental braces that your dentist will recommend will depend on your age and your unique dental situation. Here are available braces options for straightening your teeth:

Metal Braces

Metal braces are some of the most common types of braces that you will see with most individuals and are ideal for people with complex dental alignment issues. Nowadays, they come with smaller brackets and less metal for more comfortability in a patient's mouth.

They also come with multi-colored rubber bands, giving you various choices to match your personality. The cost of these braces will depend on your current dental condition and whether you have an insurance plan covering some of these costs.

Ceramic Braces

Unlike metal braces, ceramic braces and the archwires that usually connect them are clear and sometimes tooth-colored, meaning they don't stand out like metal braces. The process of straightening the teeth to their ideal position is similar to that of metal braces. However, ceramic braces are usually prone to breaking and staining easily and are also expensive.

Invisible Braces

We also have invisible braces like Invisalign, which is nearly invisible and can be worn by adults and children. An Invisalign is a clear plastic aligner that is custom made to fit your mouth shape and is strong enough to put pressure on your teeth to move them slowly to their ideal and better position.

If you need an Invisalign, you must schedule a consultation with a dentist to look at your overall oral health, smile, and make an impression of your mouth to customize your Invisalign. The dentist will also create your overall treatment plan and act as your partner until you achieve the desired results.

Invisalign uses a series of clear aligner trays that fit each of your teeth like a mouthguard and require replacement twice a month. If you have severe teeth alignment issues, this option is not recommendable for you.

Lingual Braces

If you are more concerned about your smile's aesthetic appearance, you should ask your dentist about lingual braces, which are usually cemented behind your teeth and are not visible when you smile. Lingual braces are almost similar to metal braces, but they are cheaper than Invisalign.

Lingual braces are hard to clean and are not recommendable for people with severely crooked or misaligned teeth because they take longer to reposition your teeth to their ideal position. To know if this type of braces will be ideal for you or your kid, you should schedule a consultation with a reliable dentist to diagnose and examine your dental and jaw condition.

Another Teeth Straightening Option

Another way of straightening your teeth is through surgery, which might be a way to reduce the amount of time you should wear braces for a full recovery. When you schedule an appointment with a dentist to examine your teeth alignment issues, he/she might also recommend minor surgery to reposition your gums and bones that hold your teeth in place.

A dentist may also recommend a more involved surgical procedure known as orthognathic surgery to realign your jaw. The dentist is more likely to recommend orthognathic surgery if your teeth alignment affects your chewing and speech ability.

The amount of money you have to pay out of pocket for this treatment will depend on the type of surgery the dentist will recommend for your unique teeth alignment problem and your health insurance.

The Bottom Line

You might be the right candidate for orthodontic treatment like braces or jaw surgery if your current teeth alignment affects your speech, biting, and chewing. If your current teeth alignment impacts your daily life, consider seeking a dentist's services for treatment.

Children's ideal age to fix braces is between nine to fourteen years, but you are never too old to fix braces on your teeth. Nowadays, most adults opt for braces later in their life to correct their teeth alignment issues and improve their smile. If you notice any sign that you or your kid might need braces, you should seek the services of a reliable dentist as soon as you can.

Find a Dentist Near Me

If you don't know how to determine if you need braces, you are not the only one. We invite you to contact Tarzana Dental Care at 818-708-3232 if you think you might be the right candidate for dental braces. The use of braces is a healthy way to correct your teeth alignment for a healthy mouth and a great smile.