At the age of 14, a discovery made by a young woman's orthodontist changed her life forever.
Ellie Jones, a 20-year-old from Rhyl, Wales, was born with a facial deformity that prevented her jawbones from fully developing. Although her teeth were not aligned properly, Jones’ family did not realize anything was wrong, reports the Daily Post.
When Jones went to get fitted for braces at the age of 14, consultant orthodontist Joy Hickman discovered her jaw stopped growing six years earlier. For the next six years, Hickman worked with consultant maxillofacial surgeon Emma Woolley to fix Jones’ jaw and change her life.
"A lot of people don’t actually realize they have a jaw deformity, and just accept that they have difficulties biting," Woolley explained. "By not treating it at a young age, it can cause real difficulties later in life."
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According to the International Craniofacial Institute in Dallas, jaw deformities can lead to problems chewing, breathing, speaking and smiling, in addition to affecting physical appearance. While mild deformities can be addressed through dental procedures, more severe problems require surgery.
At the age of 16, Jones underwent her first surgery, a "really painful" experience.
"I was on a liquid diet for about a month, which was really hard, and I couldn't talk properly -- I had to use a notepad to communicate," Jones told the Daily Post. "After a while I was able to mumble a few words, and had a lisp for a while due to how swollen my mouth was."
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The results of the surgery paid off quickly.
"About six months after it was my Year 11 prom and it looked good," she recalled.
A year later, she underwent corrective surgery on her chin.
"I’d always felt like my chin was too small, so the second procedure, which was optional, made another big difference," she said. "I mostly just felt relieved -- I finally felt like I could be myself."
Jones said the surgeries have done wonders for her confidence and have changed her life.
"Now I just feel normal," Jones said. "It’s worth the year of pain and my mom said what’s a year compared to the rest of your life."