Woman, 20, born with large underbite reveals how a painful jaw expansion forced her front teeth nearly 2cm apart - but braces are closing the gap
A woman born with a large underbite has revealed how a painful jaw expansion forced her front teeth nearly 2cm apart - but braces are now reducing the gap.
Kirsten Rendell, 20, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was born with a narrow palate and large underbite that gave her a lisp and made it difficult to eat.
She underwent a painful jaw expansion process where she had to manually twist a metal expander, forcing her two front teeth apart, until she had a 17mm gap.
Four months after the surgery she had braces fitted to pull her teeth back together for $31,000 (£15,809) and her top teeth are now only 3mm apart. She will continue to wear her braces until the gap is entirely gone.
Kirsten said: 'I've never liked smiling, and never used to smile with my teeth. The surgery means everything to me. For as long as I can remember I've always wanted nice teeth.'
Now wearing braces to close the gap, she chose to share her journey with her 41,0000 followers to help other people undergoing a similar life-altering, and scary, surgery know they aren't alone.
She said: 'I want people to know that regardless of how they look, it doesn't define who they are and that everyone is beautiful in their own way. I'm still very self conscious but I'm definitely a lot happier now.'
Kirsten was born with a narrow palate in her upper jaw and as a result grew up with a large underbite.
She had to beat off cruel bullies through school, and became insecure with the way she looked.
She said: 'I didn't really know any different, occasionally people would make comments about my jaw.
'I learnt to just ignore the bullying as at that age I didn't think anything could be done to fix my jaw, but of course it wasn't great.'
The shape of her mouth made speaking difficult and she developed a lisp, and could only ever use her back molars to chew.
As she got older she started to look for ways that she could get her jaw fixed, as she could only have surgery when it was fully grown.
WHAT IS AN UNDERBITE?
An underbite occurs when a person's lower teeth and jaw protrude over their upper teeth.
This is usually inherited from a parent who also has the condition.
Other causes include thumb sucking, babies using dummies and prolonged bottle feeding.
Aside from a sufferer's appearance, other symptoms can include headaches, poor self-esteem and teeth grinding or breaking.
Braces are the most common treatment but can make wearers, particularly children, feel self conscious.
Specially-made headgears can be effective but are highly noticeable and often uncomfortable.
In extreme cases, surgery to shave off the jaw bone is required as a last resort.
It is unclear how many people suffer from an underbite in the UK or US.
On January 18, she was taken into surgery to have a jaw expander fitted, that she then had to turn twice a day to manually widen her palate. She did this morning and night for two weeks.
The supermarket worker said: 'I found the turns quite painful, feels like pressure behind your nose and cheekbones, but manageable. I just kept reminding myself that with each turn I was closer to having a better jaw.'
As her jaw expanded, this forced apart her front two incisors, creating a 17mm gap between them.
She said: 'The gap sucked when it was that big, I was very self conscious.
'I always got questions asking "how I lost my teeth" and that I'm "too young to be losing teeth" and when I'd explain I was having jaw surgery they couldn't understand how it was possible to be done.
'It's not a surgery you hear about every day and I want other people with similar issues as me to not feel alone.
'I have had so many people from across the world reach out to me and telling me they're going through similar things.
'I feel as though jaw surgery isn't as common and not many people know about it so it's cool to see so many people around the world getting similar things done.'
In one year, Kirsten hopes to undergo a life changing, five-hour jaw surgery where they bring her upper jaw forward and lower jaw and chin back to ensure it is all symmetrical.
She said: 'Jaw surgery will improve my speech, chewing, confidence as well as future implications if I were to not go through.
'I've never been able to smile with teeth or just smile properly in general so knowing I'm able to have this fixed means everything.'