By: Dr. Matthew Lineberger

Disney World is legit. We took our kiddos last year for the first time, and I often found myself completely lost in the nostalgic splendor as I sprinted child-like toward the next Disney character for a selfie opp. What does Disney have to do with orthodontics, you ask? Nothing, but it provides an apropos metaphor, so read on … .

Phase I and Phase II braces—Maybe you have already been introduced to this or have heard about this or have been utterly perplexed and angered by this. I want to help you understand and be prepared. I find that after seeking multiple opinions (which we recommend, after all, we will spend quite a bit of time together), parents are often left dazed and confused about what is the correct tooth-moving path for their little angel. We commonly hear things like: “Why in the world would my 7-year-old need orthodontics?” “Back in my day they just waited until all your permanent teeth came in.” “Braces with all those baby teeth!?” “My kid needs to get braces twice!?” All valid concerns and questions.

Well, the AAO (American Association of Orthodontics) recommends every child age 7 and up come in for an ortho evaluation. This allows us to lay out a plan, discover any surprises (missing/extra teeth, impacted teeth, jaw problems, etc.), talk about hygiene and good habits, and also to make your child feel at home and show them that orthodontics is amazingly fun (in my opinion) and not scary or painful.

On occasion, we will recommend an early (Phase I) treatment. This does not mean you will be paying for braces twice; think of it as roughly one treatment broken up into two halves. Phase II will simply be a fine detailing and perfecting of the bite, and usually very efficient if the first phase is executed well. Simply put, we will recommend a Phase I if:

  • We feel like we can manage a jaw growth problem painlessly, efficiently, and easily NOW which would be a much more difficult, longer, and painful treatment LATER and could possibly result in surgery to fully correct
  • We can prevent the extraction of permanent teeth by doing Phase I treatment, especially if the facial profile and lip support could be negatively affected by these extractions
  • The teeth are the cause of any self-confidence issues or bullying

So, for my friends whose kiddos are in need of a Phase I, think of their orthodontic journey as the long drive from Michigan (our previous home) to Disney World. You have two choices: you can take a nice, leisurely approach and decide to drive until the kiddos’ iPads run out of battery, stop at a nice hotel in the mountains on the way down, swim in a heated pool, have a nice dinner, get some rest, and drive the remaining way to the Magic Kingdom the next morning (Phase I/Phase II approach); or, you can power through (traditional approach)—drive the whole day and night, suffer through the complaining kiddos, arrive tired, albeit with smiles, but at what costs along the way? At the end of the day, the journey in phases (when recommended) is a more pleasurable trip.

Dr. Matthew Lineberger is co-owner with wife Dr. Megan Lineberger of Lineberger Orthodontics in Charlotte and Huntersville. You may contact them at 704.892.3300 or visit their website at