‘I was born with transparent teeth and needed dentures at age 19 – it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,’ says teenager Mihaley Olivia Grace Schlegel.
The 19-year-old was born with teeth that were almost entirely transparent, leading to bullies dubbing her ‘shark tooth’.
Mihaley, from from Claremore, Oklahoma, US, was born with brittle bone disease, and it is thought that issues with her teeth are partly linked to this.
‘From the point I started getting teeth, they were so brittle, they were almost completely see-through,’ Mihaley, a retail assistant, said.
Growing up, Mihaley assumed that her teeth would grow stronger, but sadly they continued to weaken over time and eventually, she struggled to eat properly.
‘It got to a point where I struggled to eat basic things like bread at around 15 years old,’ she explained.
‘People would make a nasty face if I were to smile. They’d try to play it off sometimes, but it became more noticeable as I got older.’
Some people even cruelly called her ‘shark tooth’ due to their appearance.
Mihaley said: ‘I tried so hard to love my teeth because I knew how expensive it was to get them done.
‘I stopped smiling, laughing, and even eating due to the pain.’
The idea of having dentures was first brought up when Mihaley was 13, but she was scared of the unknown.
Initially, she brushed off any kind of help, but a year later, she started looking for a dentist to take on her case after experiencing excruciating pain.
It took a whole five years before an orthodontist finally agreed to take on her complex case.
‘Due to me also having brittle bone disease, known as osteogenesis imperfecta, doctors feared breaking my jaw,’ she explained.
‘I’ve had 117 broken bones, 36 surgeries and multiple placements/replacements for rods in both tibias and femurs.
‘I’ve had screw replacements in my knees and ankles, small procedures due to my broken back, and multiple bone grafts.
‘It was a scary time, but I am beyond blessed to have found such an amazing team at Aspen dental to take on my condition.’
On December 8 2021, aged just 19, Mihaley had Oral Maxillofacial reconstructive surgery (surgery of the teeth, jaws, temporomandibular joints, salivary glands and facial skin lesions), a process that requires qualifications in both medicine and dentistry and can help with facial pain and impacted teeth.
‘When I woke up from surgery, I just kept laughing and crying because I was so shocked it finally happened,’ she said.
‘It was like a dream come true.’
Before insurance, the surgery cost $12,000, but after insurance, it was $9,500.
‘Thankfully, my parents graciously helped with making payments, as well as me taking $500 out of college savings,’ she explained.
Fortunately, it was all worth it as Mihaley now loves her teeth and says that ever since the procedure, she ‘feels beautiful’ and is happy with her brand new smile.
‘There has been a big change in reactions from people especially. People don’t make gross faces when I smile or ask me what’s wrong with my teeth,’ she said.
‘New teeth have benefited me in many ways. I can eat things that I couldn’t before, and I can finally feel beautiful when I smile.’
However, Mihaley will need to have more procedures – including a surgery adding two to four implants in her bottom jaw so her dentures can clip in, as well as a laser procedure around the tissue so she can put the implants in at ease.