The gift of a smile

For this North Texas teenager born with a rare form of dwarfism, a new smile in time for graduation didn’t seem likely. Then two Texas A&M College of Dentistry faculty members stepped in to help.
February 23, 2018

On the home stretch to her high school graduation, Hannah McCain dreamed of one thing to make this exciting time even more special: a new smile for her prom and graduation photos.

That didn’t seem likely for the 17-year-old, who was born with a rare form of dwarfism associated with small tooth roots, loose teeth and weak jawbone, among many other medical issues.

Hannah’s teeth were so loose that eating was a painful experience. Each meal was a gamble with the prospect of her teeth falling out. She also was losing weight, something her small frame couldn’t afford, said her mom, Sheryl Martin. It was only a matter of time before she lost all of her teeth.

Then two Texas A&M College of Dentistry faculty members stepped in to help.

Hannah’s family dentist, who knew she needed specialized care, contacted Dr. Amirali Zandinejad, associate professor and director of the advanced education in general dentistry residency program at the College of Dentistry. Zandinejad had experience in treating patients similar to Hannah, but her case was more complicated because she lacked the bone to support implants.

“Her teeth were so loose, we were afraid they would fall out while they were taking dental impressions,” Martin said.

Zandinejad met with Dr. Likith Reddy, clinical professor in oral and maxillofacial surgery, and the two felt they could help. Several times each month Hannah and her mother made the trek from Aubrey, Texas, to the dental school. At each appointment, Zandinejad and Reddy gathered clinical data to guide their treatment recommendations.

“If you have the knowledge and education to help others, you have a responsibility to use it,” Zandinejad said.

When mother and daughter finally learned what the treatment plan would cost, and that insurance would not cover it, it was Hannah who took action. She created a GoFundMe page to help her family with the expenses of her dental care.

“A dental company reached out to us after hearing Hannah’s story in the news and offered to do the full procedure for free, saying Hannah could take the money she raised and use it for college,” Martin said. “But we decided to stick with the doctors at the dental school. We just feel that this is where God led us.”

Over the Christmas break, Hannah underwent the first phase of surgery, which consisted of extracting all of her teeth and doing a major bone graft. She received provisional dentures, which she calls her “starter teeth.”

She has about four to six months of healing before the second phase of surgery to place implants. After that, her provisional dentures will be converted to fixed dentures while her final prosthesis is being fabricated.

The good news is that even in the midst of the treatment process, Hannah is able to flash her new smile for prom and graduation photos. Next up: college!

— LaDawn Brock

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