Regardless of what you do to promote positive dental hygiene in your children, one thing that is pretty much out of your hands is whether or not they will eventually need braces. Teeth grow in at various speeds and different angles. Sometimes they follow the proper path and alignment, and other times they don’t. For many people, this strange happening sorts itself out and everything aligns by the time you are an adult. For others, braces are required to force teeth to align, or prevent future issues. You can ask your dentist his or her opinion at a checkup, but only your orthodontist will be able to know for sure if your child needs braces. Of course, this situation rarely comes out of nowhere. You’ll often have some inkling that the orthodontist will confirm. Here are five of the top signs that your child needs braces.

The first issues could arise when your child is eating. Most people just chew their food without thinking about it in any meaningful way. But kids who need braces may have trouble chewing food or biting through morsels. They may frequently miss the target, or chew the insides of their cheeks by accident. If this seems to be happening at most meals, your child may be a strong candidate for braces.

You should also listen if your child often complains about mouth pain. They may feel soreness in certain areas, in specific teeth, or just in their jaw overall. The problem is these issues may not always be visible. Teeth that are crooked are a clear indicator, but pain could be caused if teeth are too crowded, or if there are underlying jaw issues. These won’t always be obvious. But if your child frequently wants to suck on ice cubes to deal with a sore mouth, he probably has a need for braces.

Certain timing issues very early in life could also lead up to the need for braces. If your child won’t stop sucking his thumb or fingers, even after most children grow out of it, he could be altering the shape of his jaw, or the direction his teeth are coming in. Try to break your child of this habit, but if you cannot you could be dealing with the orthodontist before too long. The same goes with the timing of baby teeth. If your child’s baby teeth come in earlier or later than most children, or for some reason never appear at all that is a warning sign that braces will be required.

Another sign of potential trouble is the proportion of the jaw and teeth. This is something you would be able to notice just by looking at your child. If their teeth are oversized or undersized compared to their mouth, or if their jaw doesn’t seem to fit the rest of their face, they will probably need braces. Consider taking photos of your child every six months or so to watch how these problems progress.

Finally, check inside your child’s mouth. As their adult teeth grow in you’ll want to see how they fall into position, and whether they face the right direction. Any amount of under- or overbite, or teeth that don’t meet when they smile will inevitably lead to getting braces. If you notice especially crooked teeth that seem to be impacting how other teeth are coming in, you should reach out to your orthodontist as soon as possible. You don’t want any of this to go unchecked too long, as correcting these issues could require more painful procedures over time.