In 2012, Jolanta Yeasky, then 58, slipped and hit her chin, breaking her lower jaw in two places. The surgeon who performed emergency surgery at her local hospital stabilized the fracture using a metal plate and 18 screws.
Her repaired jaw, how- ever, was only about half-inch wide. As a result, Yeasky could no longer wear her lower dentures, leaving her unable to eat anything but soft foods while she waited for her jaw to heal.
When Yeasky learned she’d need additional surgery before she could be fitted for new dentures – and that her insurance “didn’t work” with the surgeon who’d initially repaired her jaw – she began looking for a new provider. Her search led her to Cooper University Health Care’s respected Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery/ Facial Trauma Surgery and Brian M. Smith, DMD, Division Head of Oral and Maxillo- facial Surgery.
“The emergency surgery had restored the outline of Ms. Yeasky’s jaw but not its function, since it was so small,” Dr. Smith relates. Plus, her jaw had never fully healed, and it had shifted to one side.
“Our goal is always to restore form and function,” he continues. “If you have one without the other, you’re not really going to get the result you want, as Ms. Yeasky’s initial outcome demonstrated.” In addition, he says, facial trauma isn’t treated only during the acute phase. “There’s a long-term aspect to it because it often involves temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, loss of teeth and cosmetic issues,” Dr. Smith says, noting that effective treatment requires an integrated, holistic approach. Cooper is South Jersey’s only academic institution with the depth and breadth of oral-maxillofacial expertise to provide this comprehensive range of services (see sidebar), attracting patients from across the US.
In Yeasky’s case, on January 30, 2014, Dr. Smith placed the frame of the cadaver mandible on the outside of her lower jaw, grafted bone taken from her iliac crest to the cadaver mandible, then injected bone growth factor between the two. The result: her jaw is now three inches wide – and symmetrical.
“I am healing and I definitely see a big difference,” she says. “I look at my X-rays and it’s amazing. And I’m not in pain.”
A nurse herself, Yeasky gives high marks to Dr. Smith and the entire team of surgeons, dentists and nurses who have cared for her at Cooper. “I’ve never had such a great experience,” she says.
It will take six to nine months for the bone of her lower jaw to be strong enough for dental implants, for which Yeasky will undergo surgery in the fall. She will get upper implants sooner.
“The first thing I’ll do when I get my new teeth top and bottom is eat salad,” Yeasky adds. “Then I’ll go back and show Dr. Smith my smile.”