Walnut Creek, Concord, and Lafayette, CA
From the beginning, the Hockel dental and orthodontic practice has provided many types of innovative and conventional types of orthodontics. Dr. Jack Hockel was, and still is, known internationally for his unique applications of the Crozat appliance, which he used – along with other appliances – to help many patients avoid recommended surgery or extractions. He taught these techniques while he was in practice, and Dr. Brian Hockel teaches these and others as well.
We treat many kids and adults with conventional braces and other techniques with the goal of “straight teeth.” Even though we believe there’s a cure for bite problems, and we have a very unique approach to orthodontics, we also see the value of a smile that looks its best. Our approach focuses on individual attention, and much more hands-on treatment by the doctor, when necessary. We are not a “Braces Mill.” We do not mind the parent accompanying the kids during their appointment, should the parent desire. We get to know our patients throughout the course of treatment, and they often become like family by the time they are finished.
Our Unique Approach
“Airway Orthodontics” is the title of a section of Dr. Hockel’s lectures to other dentists. It derives from the knowledge that our jaw and teeth positions can and do dramatically affect the shape and function of our airway, and it aims never to allow treatment that could make the airway worse. From studying our own patients, as well as those patients in the published orthodontic literature, we have seen convincing evidence that it’s possible to make an airway smaller by means of moving teeth. Conversely, by applying “reverse mechanics” to what is taught and practiced, we are also convinced that it’s possible to preserve and even enlarge the size of the airway – both by moving teeth and by guiding facial growth (orthotropics®).
Some of the ways we are unique:
- We believe there is a cause and a cure for malocclusion. Malocclusion, or crooked teeth and bite, is not so genetically determined as many have been led to believe. In fact, there is actually no evidence that it is a genetic trait. If you can identify the causes of a person’s bite or jaw problems, you stand a chance of addressing what’s really important instead of just addressing the symptoms.
- We put the function of the airway as Top Priority. This means that the big muscle right in front of the airway at the level of the jaws (the tongue!) must be allowed to have enough room. The mouth is the home for the tongue, with solid walls of teeth surrounding it in the front. When the tongue does not have enough room, it is forced backwards and it encroaches upon the airway. This means that the jaw positions and the teeth positions generally determine whether a person will snore at night, stop breathing at night, or just plain struggle to breathe at night – all while they think they are sleeping soundly.
- We do not pull teeth backwards in the face. The orthodontic term for this is “retraction.” Many orthodontic techniques that we used to use, and that are still in widespread use, cause retraction. It’s the “Standard of Care,” it is taught in all orthodontic colleges and universities, and it is not generally considered harmful or detrimental. While we do not judge practitioners who use retractive mechanics (Dr. Jack even used them on Dr. Brian!), we do judge the results of such mechanics as potentially harmful to patients, and we have chosen not to employ these techniques.
- We make room for teeth. We believe that the tongue was meant to be surrounded by all 32 teeth. We are not an evolutionary aberration without room for the teeth we were given. Our habitual rest oral posture and our muscle function have simply altered the growth of our faces and jaws, and, to a certain degree, this alteration can be corrected.
- We do not underestimate the capability of a child to participate in his or her care, whereas the orthodontic profession is speeding in the direction of types of treatment that do not depend on a child’s cooperation. Some types of care may involve difficult and challenging participation by the child. In the right circumstances, with good family support, we have seen children able to make heroic efforts to bring about positive changes for themselves. Some children may choose not to undergo more challenging types of treatment, and that’s OK too! In today’s busy family environment, reality often dictates simpler approaches, and we are here to support those too.
- We consider options that are “outside the box.” If the priority is on the well-being of the patient, on supporting the health of his or her very life, then certain orthodontic consequences may follow. Treatment objectives in our office will take this into account, and will consider options that go beyond just straightening teeth. Whereas orthodontics as a profession, as most of us have been taught, has focused almost exclusively on attaining straight teeth.
- We make use of our background in cosmetic and restorative dentistry to widen our view of orthodontic goals, which allows us to consider various ways to blend orthodontic considerations with the capabilities of cosmetic, restorative, and prosthetic dentistry.