As a young child growing up in South America, Thainara Ramos couldn’t open her mouth to speak properly or eat solid food. Her condition was caused by an untreated ear infection, which spread to her face, fusing shut the bones in her jaw. With little hope and few resources, her family moved to the United States.
At University Hospital in Newark, they met oral and maxillofacial surgeon Dr. Vincent Ziccardi of Rutgers Health University Dental Associates, who devised a long-term plan that would accommodate Ramos as she grew.
“Without treatment, she would have debilitating social consequences that would result from the continued facial distortion,” said Ziccardi, who is chairman of the oral and maxillofacial surgery department.
When Ramos was 8, he performed surgery to free up her jaw and promote growth.
A second procedure, called orthognathic surgery, completed when she was 17, corrected the position of her jaw structure. Last year, Ziccardi restored symmetry to her face through the insertion of custom-made, computer-generated implants, a relatively new technology that is not yet widely used in private practices.
BLOGpostopleftoblique6months.jpgThainara Ramos after her recent surgery.
“Procedures like these are more common in a university setting like ours, where we treat extremes of everything,” Ziccardi said.
At Rutgers Health University Dental Associates, providers such as Ziccardi are among the top specialists in their field. Guided by cutting-edge research and skilled at the latest treatment techniques, they treat patients in a private practice setting in Newark and New Brunswick. All specialties — from general dentistry to oral surgery — are conveniently located under one roof.
Ramos, now 23 years old, plans on becoming an occupational therapist and says that Ziccardi’s treatment has given her confidence and a deep sense of relief.
“I don’t have that burden on the back of my shoulder saying, ‘Oh, you look a little different than everyone else,’ ” she said. “When you find hope, it’s sensational. Right now, I feel unstoppable.”