After Treatment for Rare Condition, Smiles are Transformed

Zondre Joseph

Zondre Joseph was 18 when doctors in his homeland of Barbados discovered a growth on the side of his face. He was diagnosed with ameloblastoma, a benign cancer of the jaw that grows rapidly and can cause disfigurement.

“They said he had a tumor and they didn’t have the facilities or expertise to treat it,’’ said his mother, Sasha Samuel.

The family moved to Hillside, NJ to get help for Joseph. In 2019, he began treatment at RSDM, where doctors removed the tumor from his jawbone and began the process of dental implants, which includes temporary dentures until the implants are complete.

He is one of two young ameloblastoma patients being treated at the school, thanks to a Delta Dental of New Jersey Foundation SMILE Transformation grant, which funds their care.

''We wanted to help patients in need,'' said Dr. Lisa N. Gallucci, an RSDM alumna (Class of '01) and a member of the Delta Dental Foundation's Board of Trustees.

Jose´ Ramirez

The second grant recipient is Jose´ Ramirez, also 18, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who is getting a partial denture to replace several teeth that were lost after his tumor was removed.

“I’ll be happy to chew on both sides of my mouth. I’m excited to have them finished,’’ said Ramirez, who lives in Allentown, PA.

Joseph said RSDM providers have helped guide him through the long and difficult process by providing information and easing any doubts. “It made me feel reassured,’’ he said. “People are very helpful.’’

Two Postgraduate Prosthodontics Residency students have been working on the cases. Dr. Varun Pitti is treating Ramirez and Joseph has been treated by Dr. Nikkita Madhu.

“I’m glad that I can be a part of Zondre’s dental rehabilitation,’’ said Madhu. “It’s an incredibly challenging case. But I’m really excited for him to get his smile back.’’