The ability to smile with confidence during the childhood years can make a valuable difference

Ask the Experts by Dr. Jennifer Mertz

Q: Why does it seem like kids are getting braces earlier and earlier these days?

A: The American Association of Orthodontists recommends children are seen by an orthodontist by the age of 7. This is not so we can put braces on your child even earlier. We recommend some form of orthodontic treatment in only a fraction of the young kids we see. Some problems may be easier to correct if they are found and treated early.

Around the age of 6-7, some of the adult permanent teeth have come in and so have the first set of adult molars, “the six-year molars”. This initial examination helps to identify any concerns the parent may have for their child. Your orthodontist may suggest early interceptive treatment to normalize the eruption of permanent teeth, to reduce the risk of dental trauma, to correct harmful habits, or assist in jaw growth.

The early phase treatment is called Phase I or Interceptive orthodontic treatment. A few braces may be placed on the teeth or an orthodontic appliance such as an expander may be used during this early phase. This early treatment can shorten the duration of time in full braces should they be needed later.

More often than not, your initial exam will show teeth are erupting normally, and that the jaws are growing in harmony. If this is the case, the orthodontist will continue to monitor the patient every 6 months to a year to plan the perfect time to start treatment – usually when most of the adult teeth are present in the child’s mouth.

The ability to smile with confidence during the formative childhood years can make a valuable difference in a child’s quality of life. Some children may be better off doing something now rather than waiting 3-5 years until they are ready for full braces as a teen.

Q: Can’t children learn language and vocabulary from the many innovative apps and screen programs offered today?

A: While some apps and computerized programs are clever and innovative, they lack the dynamic element that only human interaction can provide. Child language research clearly supports the role of attuned parent interaction on the ability of a young developing mind to reach its potential. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under 2 should not have any screen time. Children aged 2-4 are recommended to have only one hour daily. Apps and programs that involve human interaction can be the most beneficial as they combine both human interaction as well as exposure to what current technology can offer. When adults and children are solely engaging with a 2-dimensional screen, unfortunately something valuable is not happening: real-life interaction with humans and the 3D tactile world.

Dr. Jennifer K. Mertz holds her Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Michigan and has been practicing orthodontics since 2006. At Grosse Pointe Orthodontics, Dr. Mertz and her staff are proud to offer exceptional orthodontic care for both children and adults using high-quality treatment techniques and procedures. Dr. Mertz can be reached at 313.881.5890 or reception@grossepointeortho.com. Grosse Pointe Orthodontics is a member of The Family Center’s Association of Professionals.

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