Reporter’s follow-up on dental reconstruction reveals the importance of a healthy smile

It was more than two years ago that Marc Ramirez offered the first part of the story to readers of The Dallas Morning News. Last month they got an update on the tale of a young woman and her smile.

“Robina Rayamajhi used to practice smiling with her lips closed, so self-conscious was she about the turmoil that lay behind,” Ramirez explained in October 2011.

Though legally blind, the University of North Texas student was excelling in school. Her heart was set on becoming a lawyer, Ramirez noted. But severe dental problems left unaddressed in her native Nepal were impacting her health, as well as her confidence.

The young woman had an underdeveloped jaw, which caused crowding among the teeth that had grown in. Meanwhile, other teeth were missing.

“Some teeth seemed too big, others too small. Another seemed totally superfluous. Her lips couldn’t comfortably close, and she constantly bit her tongue,” Ramirez wrote. Her gums were often inflamed. And she was shy about her appearance.

“Smiles are the green lights of human interaction. They lift moods, enhance beauty, indicate approachability,” Ramirez observed. Rayamajhi’s smile was holding her back.

“Her smile was not an open opportunity for her to invite other people into her life,” Mary Ann Siller, a blind services consultant, told Ramirez. It was Siller who decided to figure out a way to help Rayamajhi. “I thought if we could ever do anything to help her, it would change her life forever,” Siller said.

Siller reached out to a longtime friend, Dallas dentist Philip Kozlow, who had helped start a dental assistance program for low-income adults through a local group, North Dallas Shared Ministries.

Kozlow, along with Plano orthodontist Deepak Gupta, agreed to donate their services to help Rayamajhi. They estimated the orthodontic reconstruction of her mouth would take about two years.

Well, fast forward to December 2013.

Over the past two years, Rayamajhi’s dental work steadily progressed, and so has her academic career. Her confidence has grown. The honors student has been elected vice president of the UNT chapter of Delta Alpha Pi, an advocacy group for students with disabilities. She has become a member of the school’s criminal justice society. She’s also assisting Southern Methodist University’s Meadows Museum with efforts to make its art more accessible for the disabled, Ramirez reported. And she held onto her dream of a legal career, he explained.

On the day of the reporter’s visit, Rayamajhi was having two dental crowns placed.

“Kozlow told her she was almost there. Though some reconstruction remains – a pair of implants and another crown to come later – the change is already remarkable.

“Then you’ll be a Hollywood star,” he told her.

“Lying back in the dentist’s chair, Rayamajhi grinned.

“My teeth are awesome,” she said.

Of course, the story was illustrated with her smile.

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