"Skeletal growth and development are influenced by how we use and posture our tongue and how we breathe — starting at a very early age. When we see a malocclusion in a child, we have to first understand the cause, then treat that cause in order to get growth back on track."
As a dual-trained orthodontist and periodontist — the only provider of this type in her area and one of only a handful in the country — Dr. Rebecca Bockow is a renowned expert and leader in the field of interdisciplinary orthodontics, airway health, and skeletal growth and development.
“Breastfeeding is the first thing that kicks off skeletal growth and development. The ability to breastfeed efficiently can indicate that a baby’s tongue has full range of motion. Breastfeeding establishes proper tongue placement during a swallow and develops the muscles supporting the tongue.
The tongue coming up and forward is what shapes the upper jaw both in the width and in the forward/backward dimensions. A baby has to work hard to breastfeed, and this “forward pull” helps establish midface growth and development. Forward lower jaw growth is also initiated as the masseter muscles are recruited during breastfeeding.
A baby is obligated to breathe through their nose while breastfeeding, helping initiate the growth and development of nasal passages.”
This proper tongue posture and nasal breathing is vital because it promotes good sleep, prevents mouth breathing, and supports healthy jaw and skeletal development. When growth starts out on the right track, there are fewer issues to correct later in life.
Dr. Rebecca Bockow’s evidence-based orthodontic practice is born out of a genuine curiosity, passion for knowledge, and desire to reduce airway and oral dysfunctions that have become common in children, teenagers and adults.
Her success in the field is built upon her ability to connect patterns she has seen in adult patients to patterns of jaw and skeletal development in younger patients.
The overall mission of her practice, Inspired Orthodontics, is to change lives by modifying growth, creating beautiful smiles, and setting patients up for a lifetime of dental and airway health.
Dr. Bockow and her colleagues focus on individual patients to create personalized, patient-centered orthodontics, from braces and Invisalign®, to palate expansion, to jaw surgery. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to dental and airway health.
Dr. Bockow views orthodontics as more than straightening teeth for a beautiful smile: “It’s about identifying the root cause of a problem, getting the bones in the right place, and establishing proper function."
A yes answer to any of these questions can sometimes indicate that sleep is disturbed to some degree and warrants further investigation.
When it comes to addressing issues such as underbites, overbites, crossbites, sleep disorders, and gummy smiles, Dr. Bockow starts with a simple question: “We have to ask why. Why the crowding? Why the snoring? Why the open bite?"
The roof of the mouth is the floor of the nose. This means that if the upper jaw is small, the nasal passages tend to also be underdeveloped and there might also not be enough room for the tongue. Similarly, if a child has large tonsils, he or she may posture his or her tongue forward in an effort to open up the airway. This can present as an “open bite.”
Dr. Bockow and her colleagues at Inspired Orthodontics focus on supporting patients on their journey towards sleep and airway health. They focus on diagnosing the etiology (root cause) of the malocclusion, and treating it in an interdisciplinary manner.
If an ENT diagnoses a patient with large tonsils and adenoids and those issues have led to mouth breathing, low tongue posture, and a subsequent narrow upper jaw and crowding, Dr. Bockow and her team may be able to expand the upper arch thereby getting growth back on track.
Throughout such treatment, Dr. Bockow works closely with the patient’s ENT, sleep physician, myofunctional therapist and other specialists. She says that “treatment of our patients requires an interdisciplinary approach to care.”
“We combine clinical findings like underdeveloped jaws and crowding with the health history to tailor the treatment plan to each patient. Sometimes we need expansion to make more room for the erupting adult teeth, other times we need to help guide the upper jaw forward if a child is trending towards an underbite.
We strive to make room for all of the erupting teeth, but this sometimes takes careful planning and early intervention.”
Dr. Bockow’s journey into interdisciplinary orthodontics began with a desire to understand the foundation of oral health — the bone and gums. She attended a 3-day lecture by Dr. Jeff Rouse, a prosthodontist, where she learned about airway as it pertains to dentistry.
In the lecture she saw adult after adult with sleep apnea and thought to herself “these patients presented with orthodontic issues.”
She began to see the patterns in early skeletal growth and development that led to adults with serious oral dysfunction and breathing problems. Dr. Bockow describes a “light bulb” moment when she began to put together ideas about skeletal development, tongue posture, airway health and dentistry.
Dr. Rebecca Bockow works from a simple premise: start early, work with a great interdisciplinary team, support healthy jaw development and focus on prevention.
She and her team see patients of all ages, from young children to teens to adults. The majority of Dr. Bockow’s early intervention patients are around six or seven years old.
Dr. Bockow is a graduate of the University of Washington School of Dentistry and practiced as a general dentist for two years. She completed a dual-specialty program combining Orthodontics and Periodontics at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Bockow is a resident faculty at Spear Education. She is a board-certified orthodontist and periodontist. She lectures nationally and internationally on periodontics, orthodontics, interdisciplinary orthodontics, airway, and skeletal growth and development.
The health:latch circle is a radically kind and fiercely patient online community of parents, patients, and professionals across healthcare fields who know the issues of oral restrictions inside and out and hold your best interests at heart.
Becoming a member of the health:latch circle is FREE for parents, patients & caregivers, and will allow you to access information, connect with professional care and get answers from specialists.