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Starting college with a new smile after corrective jaw surgery

SVdP's Dental Clinic made the expensive procedure and care possible for Valeria Treviño

There was a time in Valeria Treviño’s life where she refused to have her photo taken. The 17-year-old felt embarrassed and ashamed of her smile. 

“It was really my biggest thing,” she said. “It crushed me to see my profile. I hated it so much.”

Other dentists had told Valeria that she would need not only braces, but major surgery to correct her jaw.

“My parents had just pushed it out of my head because it was expensive,” Valeria said, “and I had to say, ‘I’m just going to have to live with this because I can’t…it’s like thousands of dollars that we don’t have.” 

It wasn’t until her wisdom teeth started acting up in 2018 that she came to St. Vincent de Paul’s Virginia G. Piper Medical & Dental Clinic by recommendation from a family friend. 

That’s when she met Dr. Ken Snyder, the executive dental director of the clinic. On her first visit, the clinic removed her impacted wisdom teeth and scheduled her to return for a comprehensive dental exam. When she returned, the clinic staff found that Valeria had no cavities and a chipped front tooth that they easily fixed, but it was the complication with her jaw that was the striking discovery. Valeria’s lower jaw significantly protruded from her upper jaw, causing a debilitating misalignment of her bite. She couldn’t close her front teeth together and very few of her back teeth touched when she would bite down. 

Dr. Snyder knew her case would be challenging not only physically but financially, so he started calling and connecting all the health professionals who would need to work together to give Valeria a chance at a healthy, functioning smile. 

“It is very hard to get these surgeries approved as a dental procedure,” Dr. Snyder explained. “I contacted her primary care physician and wrote a prototype letter for her as to what to submit to AHCCCS relaying that it was a medical problem, which it truly was.”

Valeria’s jaw didn’t allow her to chew her food properly, which resulted in stomach problems. 

Dr. Snyder immediately enrolled her in SVdP’s orthodontics program so that her teeth could be positioned properly to fit together after her jaw surgery. 

“Honestly from the day I came here, when they told me like ‘This can be possible. This can get done.’ I was so excited,” Valeria said.

Two years of consistent care, orthodontia and a successful jaw surgery have given Valeria the smile she’s always dreamed of and at no cost to the family. 

“Extracting the wisdom teeth would have cost $2,000, the orthodontics $7,000, and the jaw surgery approximately $30,000,” Dr. Snyder said. “It never would have happened without SVdP and the many good people out there who truly care.”

Now Valeria has a new smile this fall as she starts studying robotics engineering at the University of Arizona.

“I’m very excited that I’m going with a new look,” said Valeria earlier this year in anticipation of starting college. 

“It’s so good to see Valeria so happy,” Dr. Snyder said, “and I think it has definitely inspired her to set higher goals for herself and has totally improved her self-image as evidenced by her confidence and that she can’t stop smiling.”

When she graduated from high school this past May, Valeria felt overwhelmed with joy when she looked at her senior portraits. 

“I looked at them for the first time,” Valeria said, “and I was like, ‘I look good.’ I just never felt pretty, you know?

"It felt so warm in my heart," Valeria continued, "to finally see my profile and be like, 'I like what I'm seeing.'"

Help bring healthy, vibrant smiles to more kids while also supporting local art. Russ Cannizzaro Design will give half of all its profits this holiday season to support the SVdP Dental Clinic, so your art purchase will bring dental care to someone who can't afford it. Shop Russ Cannizzaro's artwork at: