Bullied graduate smiles for the first time in 10 years after having surgery to remove pointed shark teeth caused by rare disorder
A bullied graduate is smiling for the first time in 10 years after having surgery to remove her pointy ‘SHARK TEETH’ caused by a rare condition.
Jenna Pfaff, 21, from San Jose in California, USA, was so embarrassed she covered her sharp triangular teeth with her gums, laughed with her mouth closed and hid them in all pictures.
At eight-years-old, her unusual gnashers led to a diagnosis of ectodermal dysplasia, a series of genetic disorders affecting the bones, teeth, hair and more.
Classmates mocked her ‘messed up teeth’ and were referred to as ‘shark teeth’, the embarrassment of which, led Jenna to never smile in public.
As her teeth began to break and fall-out in her late teens, Jenna was desperate to have surgery to fit implants so she no longer had to hide.
Last month, all her teeth were removed and a temporary set of dentures put in place to strengthen her jaw while she fundraises for $25,000 (£19,000) permanent teeth.
Since surgery, she can’t stop smiling and is no longer ashamed of bearing a toothy grin for the first time in a decade.
Jenna, a pre-veterinary medicine graduate, said: “Growing up, my teeth weren’t like other kids, I had pointy teeth that were sharp, very fragile and triangular like shark‘s teeth.
“I was so embarrassed I suffered with anxiety over them, all the way through school I was bullied for having bad teeth and even started losing healthy teeth because of the condition.
“People would say things like I had ‘messed up teeth’ and I was known as the girl with the ‘jacked up mouth’.
“I got used to not showing my teeth at all, I trained myself to never smile or laugh with an open mouth and generally trained my lips to cover them.
“Prior to surgery they would wiggle and move even when I was brushing my teeth leading to one falling out, then I lost another while eating a banana because they were so fragile.
“If I didn’t have surgery all my teeth would have fallen out, I had a lot of dead teeth in my mouth just waiting to break or snap off.
“Last month, I’ve not got my first set of temporary teeth, which I’ll have for four months up to two years while I fundraise for permanent ones.
“I’m starting to get used to having teeth again now, I find myself smiling with my mouth open without realising it for first the first time in over ten years.
“It’s been such a long time since I’ve smiled with my teeth that I don’t know properly how to do it so I have to practice in the bathroom making funny faces.
“I’m so grateful this happened to me, it’s definitely such a positive thing, I’m much less self-conscious now that my teeth are more realistic than before.”
Jenna was eight-years-old when dentists discovered her condition ectodermal dysplasia – a disorder that impairs how parts of the body develop.
It meant that most of her adult teeth hadn’t formed, along with many of the baby teeth growing in the wrong direction before eventually dying out.
Jenna said: “They found out I was missing my adult teeth, I only had a handful of them and would need implants that were quoted at $170,000 at the time.
“I had big gaps where the gums were and thought my teeth looked like those of a shark, at that age I started getting used to the fact that I would never be able to smile in public.”
That same year, Jenna was fitted with braces, which she used to hide her teeth but at school was cruelly bullied for their appearance.
She said: “I didn’t want to go to school because of my teeth and wore braces as a lot of them came through in the wrong direction – it was like the braces were hiding my teeth.
“In all my school pictures, I had my mouth closed and you could tell I wasn’t happy, I would do a lot of things to divert attention from my mouth.”
At 18-years-old the urgency to replace Jenna’s teeth increased when they started to snap, break and fall out from the lightest pressure.
She was fitted with a ‘snap-on smile’ but still suffered with anxiety due to their ‘fake’ appearance and hurting her mouth.
Jenna said: “I remember crying in the bathroom holding my teeth, they had just snapped off due to the condition but my jaw bone hadn’t developed enough to tolerate the implants yet.
“So I had a snap on smile for three years, I was embarrassed of my natural teeth but the ‘snap-on’ ones were only slightly less embarrassing and hurt a lot.”
Last month, Jenna was finally able to have surgery to fit temporary implants allowing her to smile for the first time in a decade.
She said: “For the first five days post-surgery I looked pretty bad, I was super swollen, it looked like I was covered in bee stings, I had black eyes and my jaw was all bruised up.
“But after the swelling went down and I looked at my teeth I was laughing and crying, it hurt so much at that point but it was amazing.
“Now I smile without noticing and so many tell me they just thought I was really unhappy before and didn’t know there was anything wrong with my teeth.
“Once I have the permanent ones put in they will look even more realistic and I no longer think I’ll be self-conscious at all.”
Now Jenna and mum Bethany Broenan, 55, need to fundraise $25,000 (£19,000) to buy Jenna permanent teeth that will help to eradicate all her insecurities.
Bethany said: “Jenna hadn’t spoken about her teeth until fundraising, she allowed herself to be vulnerable and it was hard for her to discuss but we need all the help we can get.
“Insurance companies don’t recognise this condition as a threat to health or life, in a response I received their answer was if she can breathe, swallow and eat then it’s cosmetic surgery.
“But bad teeth affect the heart and so many other organs in the body, so there are a lot more long-term risks along with her overall happiness.”
To donate to Jenna’s cause visit: www.youcaring.com/jennapfaff-754830