High school can be really tough, even for the average teen. Finding friends to eat with at lunch, being sure you're wearing the right clothes, and trying to fit in are common problems for most teenagers. Now add in a congenital birth defect that causes a part of your face to develop more slowly than the rest. Not only does this birth defect make your face uneven, it can cause your classmates to bully you about your appearance. It also has left you in pain for as long as you could remember.
Jenalysse Renaud experienced all of this as a teenager with hemifacial microsomia. The condition affected her mouth, jaw, and ear. It left her bite unbalanced, her jaw out of alignment, and her smile crooked. Jenalysse also had to wear a hearing aid because her condition affected her hearing. Most of all, she was in pain.
"I was just overall very uncomfortable," Jenalysse said.
Hemifacial microsomia affects 1 in 4500 people, according to the National Craniofacial Association. It is the second most common craniofacial condition after cleft palate.
In ninth grade, when wearing her hearing aid became painful and even eating became excruciating, Jenalysse's mother, Judy, stepped in to start seeking solutions that would end her daughter's pain.
The road to relief began with a trip from Seattle to Detroit to visit with a doctor who specialized in treating patients with hemifacial microsomia. The specialist assessed Jenalysse and referred her Dr. Amy Norman.
Dr. Norman’s experience made her exactly the right person to treat Jenalysse. Not only does Dr. Norman practice neuromuscular dentistry, but it is also her passion.
"I was at ease when shown my before pictures and after images of what I would look like, and when Dr. Norman explained exactly what the process would be," Jenalysse said.
The process included several procedures. Jenalysse got braces in 2009, had her wisdom teeth taken out, screws inserted, her tonsils and adenoids out, jaw surgery in August 2011, and braces off in June the following year.
After finding her physiologically correct jaw position, Dr. Norman and her team began working to move Jenalysse’s teeth and jaw to find balance and bring Jenalysse relief.
The process for pain relief was a long one, wrought with many office visits, procedures, and at times, pain. Dr. Norman developed the treatment plan and coordination of care between her office, an oral surgeon, and Dr. Randall Ogata, the orthodontist who was working to move and straighten Jenalysse’s teeth.
Despite the pain and long road she was on, Jenalysse remained positive, hopeful, and patient.
"There really was not a point in my treatment, although long and at times painful, that made me want to give up," Jenalysse said.
During Dr. Norman’s care, Jenalysse felt like part of the family-and credits Dr. Norman and her staff with putting her at ease.
"From my cleanings to follow up appointments and everything in between, Dr. Norman and her staff were amazing, helpful, and caring... She was also very open and candid about what was ahead for me," Jenalysse said.
Relief did not happen overnight. Over the course of her treatment, Jenalysse’s pain slowly diminished.
"Over time, the pain became less," Jenalysse said.
While her pain decreased, other changes were happening. Exciting changes started like straight teeth and a new smile. Eating became easier. Jenalysse was also able to take part on her high school swim team because breathing became easier.
These changes made life better for Jenalysse, who had experienced pain since her childhood. These changes also changed her appearance. So much so that people didn’t recognize her.
"I have tons of people who do double takes of me, and I receive tons of compliments on my smile," Jenalysse said.
As a result of her new look, she also has a new lease on life.
"My health maintenance has gone way up, and I feel gorgeous," Jenalysse said.
She has some advice for other patients living in pain as a result of hemifacial microsomia and other painful dental conditions.
"If you have Dr. Norman on your side, you will be fine. Be patient, take care of yourself and follow Dr. Norman’s advice. The recovery is not the greatest, but the result is amazing," Jenalysse said.