Alexander City orthodontist Dr. Bill Harrell is worried about more than just teeth in his practice. Harrell’s spent years researching the effects of sleep disordered breathing and children’s airways.
He teamed up with Australian pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. David McIntosh to host a free live worldwide webinar Saturday tying otolaryngologists and orthodontics together toward a common goal.
“I was able to get in touch with (McIntosh) and we touched base on some stuff involving dentistry and orthodontics and what we can do early for kids with sleep disordered breathing,” Harrell said. “He agreed to co-edit my book I’m working on and thought if we look at the medical side, the dental side will catch up.”
Harrell has concentrated on not only children’s teeth but also their airways for many years and tries to develop growth patterns and improve breathing while straightening teeth along the way.
“We did this free webinar to kind of just put the information out there,” Harrell said. “We had a lot of people online watching that were lay people but also a lot of doctors too. There is a fine line of doing something for lay people to understand but also still hold the attention of doctors.”
The general-focused webinar streamed on McIntosh’s Facebook page with nearly 1,000 followers and is still available to watch.
“There were some Alex City people online, dentists in town and some moms that wanted to hear about our research,” Harrell said. “It was about an hour and a half long.”
Harrell, who has been working on airway-focused research since the 1980s, recognized the need to align his specialty with doctors focused on similar issues from a different perspective.
“The focus is to highlight coming together and the benefits that has on what we’re trying to achieve,” McIntosh said in the webinar.
Harrell’s book will focus mainly on sleep disorders in children and when/how sleep apnea begins.
“A lot of sleep apnea begins in children and may even begin in-utero,” he said. “Probably a lot of it if after their born and they don’t even recognize it.”
Harrell hopes to keep disseminating this research and information to raise awareness and provide educational resources.
“We hope to host more free webinars for the average person and also doctor-oriented webinars at a cost,” Harrell said. “The point is to have MDs and DMDs come together and have a common place to learn together. What we’re trying to do is one thing that could possible get dentistry and medicine back together where they have been on dual ends of the spectrum.”
Otolaryngologists and orthodontists both deal with the basal, maxilla areas and respiratory complex along with cranial facial growth.
“If we can recognize issues early, we can treat them early,” Harrell said. “We’re starting to see more kids earlier on developing airways and room for the teeth, not to just put braces on kids but work with growth guidance. That’s when you have the most active growth going on. So instead of letting them grow into it, we grow them out of these things and the earlier, the better.”
McIntosh’s book, “Snored to Death: Are you dying in your sleep?” addresses snoring and the issues causing it. The verbiage is geared toward doctors but understandable for the average person.
“Six months ago, Bill and I started chatting in context of my book and realized we were very like-minded,” McIntosh said in the webinar. “Bill has a huge amount of experience and knowledge and I am delighted to link in with and learn from him.”