Unlike the modern options, we have today—from clear aligners to glow-in-the-dark dental braces—he had a mouth full of old-fashioned metal wires and rubber bands. As a teenage tinkerer, young Bill was keen to see how his braces worked. Armed with a pair of pliers and a coat hanger, he made a copy of his wires to show his orthodontist on his next visit. Instead of dismissing his inquisitive patient, the wise practitioner put him in the lab with pliers and wires and let him experiment. Bill Harrell’s fate—and vocation—were sealed.
Forty-plus years later, Dr. William Harrell’s curiosity about ‘how things work’ has never diminished. In addition to providing superior diagnosis and treatment for traditional ortho conditions, Dr. Harrell has devoted most of his career to educating his peers, the public and other healthcare professionals on the importance of discovering and treating airway obstructions/growth issues that can cause serious health conditions in both children and adults.
Snoring, obstructive sleep apnea, misdiagnosed ADHD, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes are some of the side-effects of airway-related breathing problems; Dr. Harrell believes strongly that early diagnosis and treatment—especially in children—are critical to preventing these conditions later in life.
However, diagnosing and treating airway conditions requires that practitioners achieve what Dr. Harrell calls “anatomical truth”—and that requires diagnostic tools that simply did not exist when he began his practice in the late 1970s. Dr. Harrell began searching for alternative devices and methods, becoming an early adopter of technology such as 3D imaging, determined to apply it to orthodontics.
His interest in 3D imaging began around in the early 1980s on an Atari computer when a dental colleague who had been working on 3D ‘stereoscopic’ video games invited Dr. Harrell to his basement to see what he had been working on. He saw that the Atari computer was laying on its rear-end instead of sitting upright. His colleague handed him a pair of tethered liquid crystal glasses to wear and said, “watch this.” What he saw amazed him: a ‘floor’ began to rise off the computer screen; it parted and an airplane began flying around the screen sticking up off the screen like a hologram. Then he saw people walking around upright on the screen.
Dr. Harrell immediately saw the advantage of creating this type of 3D visualization for patient/parent consults, so they could see how their real 3D anatomy looks. He also knew it would also help him make more accurate diagnoses since the 3D stereoscopic images showed the depth of the 3D figures, not just a flat plane 2D image.
In 1992, Dr. Harrell filed for and was funded by a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to study the possibility of creating 3D tracings from a calibrated set of 2D lateral and frontal cephalometric images and a stereoscopic set of facial images. By using calibrated frontal and lateral cephalographs and creating epipolar lines, he could create 3D geometric lines, connecting landmarks of anatomy and determine their 3D locations in space. We were able to create a stereoscopic cephalometric tracing that could be rotated and also, by the use of the liquid crystal glasses, had visual depth.
Dr. Harrell continued to be fascinated by the whole concept of stereo/binocular vision and he intended to apply the idea of stereoscopic vision as a diagnostic tool in orthodontics. When 3D Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) was introduced in the US in 2001, Dr. Harrell immediately recognized the potential of 3D facial imaging and 3D CBCT in improving diagnosis, treatment and patient outcomes.
In addition to incorporating it into his own practice, he began speaking at industry conferences, publishing articles and chapters, presenting seminars and collaborating with colleagues across the country to promote this technology. He continued investigating and upgrading his practice’s 3D diagnostic tools and exploring ways to achieve anatomic truth in other areas such as TMJ, airway obstruction, sleep disorders, and early detection of airway biomarkers on the face. He now focuses most of his practice on educating patients, consumers, peers and other medical professionals on the importance of early detection of airway issues and on holistic, collaborative treatment plans.
As a result of his persistent exploration and study of airway, breathing, and sleep disorders, Dr. Harrell is a recognized expert on diagnosing and treating these conditions. His motto—“Breath is Life”—is an appropriate reflection of what has become his professional and personal passion. In addition to his own practice, Dr. Harrell is actively involved in creating outreach programs designed to bring early detection, diagnosis, and treatment to communities and schools across the USA. He also consults with other health care practices about how to incorporate 3D imaging technology to address patient needs and create additional revenue streams.
So thankful for the care they have provided to me and my girls! Highly recommend Dr. Harrell.
Both my daughters were treated by Dr. Harrell; quads, braces, etc. I too just recently completed my treatment. He made wearing braces at 47 easy. Dr. Harrell is a wizard when it comes to creating a beautiful smile! His staff are well trained and make you feel at home when you walk in the door. Our family will always use Dr. Harrell!"
Dr. Harrell is a really nice person. He always makes sure that he doesn't hurt you while he is putting the braces in. Today I went there and he looked at my teeth and he gave me a high five. He said they looked great. Dr. Harrell is really nice.
6 years of treatment and I'm finally complete. Dr. Harrell's office is filled with love. I would get so excited every time I had a checkup knowing (1. I get to leave school early lol) but mostly because I get to see my girls. (other than Dr. H, I love to see him too)!! I'm 17 years old and HIGHLY recommend you coming to Dr. Harrell's office. Ya won't regret it!!
Both of my girls, ages 6 and 10 see Dr. Harrell and we love him and his staff. Everyone is super friendly and we are loving the results!
I had braces, and surgery for screws to correct problems, which were later taken out. I had bad headaches before my braces, but this corrected my problem. I haven't had a headache since. Thanks, Dr. Harrell!
Dr. Harrell is top notch. He has helped my wife and I many times. His staff always goes above and beyond to make sure all our needs are met. A++++
The staff were delightful and friendly. I had been doing research about my snoring problems. Dr. Harrell went above and beyond explaining my options to me. He is very knowledgeable and I would HIGHLY recommend him to anyone!
This office provides a comfortable environment for children and adults. Dr. Harrell does splint therapy, sleep appliances, as well as orthodontic treatment. I highly recommend them!