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Mercier, a St. Helen's resident, is the first of the recipients to complete the program.

Christina Mercier was used to hiding her teeth and not smiling, but now Mercier is smiling so much she notices people smiling back at her.

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Dr. Russell Lieblick said Christina Mercier's new smile is awesome and heartwarming, while Mercier describes the dental procedure as amazing.In June 2015, Mercier and Jaclyn Guerney were selected as the recipients of a free full-arch replacement as part of the Second Chance Program offered by Beacon Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons, on Southeast Jefferson Street in Milwaukie.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - In a before photo, Christina Mercier's teeth were discolored and broken, due to radiation and chemo-therapy treatments for cancer.The procedure, which can run up to $50,000, restores oral function and aesthetics with minimal downtime.

Mercier, a St. Helen's resident, is the first of the recipients to complete the program. As of Jan. 25, she now has a new set of fully functioning teeth. Guerney, working with surgeon Dr. Brandon Rehrer, is still going through the process.

Second Chance Program

This is the first time that Beacon has offered this program, noted Summer Womack, professional relations and continuing education coordinator.

"We were only going to pick one recipient, but we couldn't decide between them," she said, adding that both women had compelling stories.

This program is going to be "life-changing for both of these ladies. When we first met Christina, she talked with her hand over her mouth and covered her mouth when she smiled. And on Jaclyn's Facebook page she never smiled in her photos."

"We see people who really need something like this, but can't get it done because of the cost of reconstruction. This area has been good to us, so we thought it would be nice to donate something back to the community," said Dr. Russell Lieblick, the oral and maxillofacial surgeon who performed Mercier's procedure.

He was part of the interview process to choose a recipient and said Mercier was the ideal person for the reconstruction because of her positive attitude.

"She has so much going for her, but her teeth were hindering her success in life. We thought [doing this procedure] would allow her to flourish," Lieblick said.

He described Mercier's new smile as heartwarming and amazing.

Full-arch replacement

Lieblick noted that people who need this kind of procedure are ones who have "dentition that has broken down and is not restorable."

Teeth deteriorate for many reasons, including infrequent visits to the dentist and the after-effects of medical treatments, like radiation and chemotherapy, he said.

"The process for people is simple — they come in and go to sleep," Lieblick said.

"Then we remove all their teeth, prepare the bone and put in a number of dental implants. We build the teeth on the implants, with the help of an experienced dentist," he said.

The first set of teeth is temporary, and it takes about four months for the implant to fuse with the bone. After that, permanent teeth replace the temporaries, he said.

"We say they come in with [damaged] teeth, and leave with a brand-new smile," he added.

The entire process takes months, depending on the patient's and doctor's schedules, but there is surprisingly little pain associated with the surgery and recovery, Lieblick said.

Both he and Mercier's dentist donated their time for the procedures, but much of the expense of the full-arch replacement is lab work and materials, he said.

"It is a huge undertaking to do something like this and we would like the program to continue," Lieblick said, but at this time that has not been decided.

'Amazing experience'

Mercier said her teeth and saliva glands seriously deteriorated after she had chemo and radiation treatments for cancer in 2000, resulting in a mouthful of missing, broken and discolored teeth.

She found the application for the Second Chance Program, filled it out, and was called in for several interviews before being chosen as one of the recipients.

She had the surgery on a Friday and went to work on Monday, and said she only had to take ibuprofen for very minor pain.

After her initial surgery, she went to Dr. Aaron Tinkle, who works at Belmont Family Dentistry, who designed and made her new set of teeth.

"He chose their size, shape and color and then fitted them onto my implants," Mercier said.

"Everything went better than expected; everybody was so friendly and helpful. It was an amazing experience and I would tell anybody to do it," she said.

Before the procedure, she was in constant pain, but with her new set of teeth her mouth does not hurt all the time.

Now she has to get used to having people compliment her on her smile.

Mercier added, "I was in the grocery store and a young girl was helping me; she told me my teeth were beautiful."

Beacon Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons office is located at 2001 Jefferson St., in Milwaukie.

For more information, call 503-654-3530, or visit beaconoms.com.

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