Dr. Mark A. Cruz, a dentist in Dana Point, co-developed the Airway Focused Dentistry Mini-Residency with Dr. Barry Raphael, an orthodontist with 33 years of experience. Dr. Raphael is the owner of Raphael Center for Integrative Orthodontics in Clifton, New Jersey. He is also the founder and owner of the Raphael Center for Integrative Education, where mini-residency sessions are held for doctors who come from various disciplines. Drs. Cruz and Raphael are committed to educating their colleagues about the significant role the airway plays in dentistry, orthodontics, and other fields of medicine.
During one of the Mini-Residency sessions, Dr. Raphael highlighted his reason for getting involved in airway focused dentistry.
"Eight years ago I had my Zen moment, that is the moment that you realize that everything you learned . . . has been turned on its head. And, the premises that I held dear and true for my daily practice in orthodontics had changed dramatically, he said. "I had to rebuild my way of thinking. I've restructured my practice now to include airway concepts and myofunctional concepts. And, I’ve put myself in the position of wanting to help other people that want to make that transition."
Dr. Raphael teaches the principles he has learned to pediatric residents at Mt. Sinai Hospital.
"One of the problems in my career was that I had been told that malocclusion was a product of growth and development," Dr. Raphael said.
When a parent would ask Dr. Raphael why his or her child had crooked teeth, he would reply with an explanation such as, "Well, you get your teeth from one parent and jaws from another."
Eventually, Dr. Raphael realized there were other potential causes, unrelated to genetics.
"Evolution has had us develop with certain competencies, competencies that help us to be here today as Homo sapiens. But, when the environment changes, it creates certain stressors; and it challenges our physiology. And, the physiology has no choice but to react to that."
Dr. Raphael's focus has shifted from looking at genotype (the set of genes a person carries) to phenotype (all of a person's observable characteristics – which are influenced by his and her genotype and by the environment).
Both Drs. Raphael and Cruz believe this shift in thinking will help doctors with diagnoses and interventions. Therefore, they have dedicated their time and research to airway focused dentistry. In addition to co-hosting the mini-residency, the team co-developed the "Multi-Disciplinary Airway Collaborative" to exchange information with doctors around the world during live video chats.