Tooth helps restore eyesight? Authors ran out of time?

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Read here. With this title: Tooth helps restore desperate woman’s sight , I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me as a reader to expect at least some kind of explanation here. Instead, we get this:

To start the procedure, surgeons remove a healthy tooth and part of the patient’s jawbone. Perez said Thornton was given a jawbone implant, but she developed a sinus infection, so they removed it. They will try again later. The tooth and bone were then shaved and sculpted, and a hole was drilled into them to hold the prosthetic lens. Then the whole unit was implanted into Thornton’s chest and left for several months, allowing the tooth and lens to bond. This was then implanted into her eye. Asked why doctors don’t use a piece of plastic instead of a tooth, Perez said that works well when the eye is “wet and healthy.” But Thornton’s eye was too dry. When he first saw her, he said, “her eyes were covered with skin.”

Maybe I’m just medically naive, but this article seems to create far more questions than it answers. I would be very interested to know who came up with this procedure and why in the world this person ever thought to put a tooth in a person’s eye to help that person see better. I have to admit, I do have medically-fleeting-thoughts not unlike this (i.e. “if I put toothpaste on my lower back will it instantly cure my severe lower back pain?…it doesn’t), but this just seems so disjointed. It leaves me asking at least the following questions:

  • Why a tooth? Who was the first MD (or non medical lunatic?) who said: it has to be a tooth – only a tooth will work in this procedure – and in fact, only an eye tooth (which, by the way, was just being cocky)? What the authors should have done here is lay the foundation for this whole thing answering the basic: why would anyone in their right mind have considered putting part of a person’s tooth in their eye to fix it. That’s missing.
  • Ok, the tooth is strange enough, but why part of the jawbone too? The authors gloss over this sort of like we ought to know that it couldn’t just be a tooth that would go in there – obviously part of the jawbone would need to be involved. Obviously.
  • This is the big one for me though: why did the authors give such a limited explanation for for why the tooth/bone/lens thing was then implanted into this woman’s chest and “left to heal for several months”. WHAT!!!??? Why? The answer, according to the authors, is that it would allow “the tooth and lens to bond”. Sorry, does the ‘bonding’ having to take place in this woman’s chest? Why can’t it take place elsewhere? I wonder if the MD who performed this particular procedure just had some strange kind of fetish. Why not in the leg? Better yet, how about letting the bonding happen somewhere outside the body – like in a lab. Already, this poor woman has to try to understand why doctors need to extract her tooth and disfigure her face to remove part of her jawbone – throwing in the “and then we need to implant all of this into your chest for a few months” HAD to make her wonder.

As much as I rip here – I must admit, it’s pretty cool that she can see again!

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4 Responses to “Tooth helps restore eyesight? Authors ran out of time?”

  1. Kozak Says:

    Teeth are extremely hard and long lasting (they last a lifetime), and they bond with bone, in this case they implant the tooth and it’s piece of jaw bone into the orbital bone (the bone of the eye socket) to hold the lens in the proper position for the woman to see. The tooth and attached bone needs a blood supply to survive so placing it in a pocket in the body is needed . The tooth develops a blood supply, has time to bond to the lens, and is ready to go when it’s time to implant in the orbit. They probably placed the transplant just under the skin or muscle of the chest wall, so “inside the chest” is a little bit of an exaggeration.

  2. awhayes Says:

    Kozak – very helpful! I wish you had written this article! You explained in a paragraph what the authors couldn’t in several pages. As an apparent medical person, can you understand why I as a non-medical person had trouble accepting this article as it was written?

    • Kozak Says:

      Yeah, I could see where it might be confusing for someone not in medicine. Not sure if it was because it was written by someone who didn’t really understand it, or by someone who just assumed more knowledge by the readers and didn’t explain it enough.

  3. 56Coop Says:

    OK, OK forget about my wierd mind (see post re: Sutton).

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