Miami Tooth Fairy Grants Blind Woman Sight

University of Miami performs the nation's first eye-tooth surgery to restore a woman's sight

By Todd Wright
|  Thursday, Sep 17, 2009  |  Updated 11:54 AM EDT
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Sight for the Blind

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Sharron Thortnon has sight thanks to the doctors at UM and her teeth.

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Blind Woman Sees Again Thanks to a Tooth

A woman who has been blind for nearly nine years underwent a first-of-its-kind surgery that allowed her to regain sight... and doctors used her tooth to make it happen.

Sight for the Blind

An innovative procedure using a tooth has given one woman back her sight.
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Usually when you lose a tooth, the Tooth Fairy will put a quarter or some chocolate under your pillow. If you have rich parents, you might even get a dollar.

But for 60-year-old Sharron Thornton, losing a tooth meant gaining vision. That's some trade off.

Thornton, who has been blind for nearly nine years, underwent a first-of-its-kind surgery at the University of Miami recently that allowed her to regain useful vision in her eyes, and doctors used her tooth to make it all happen.

The procedure, called modified osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis, implants the patient's tooth in the eye to securely hold a prosthetic lens. The surgery is usually recommended in only the most extreme cases when the eye is not a candidate for cornea replacement or some other type of corrective surgery.

"We take sight for granted, not realizing that it can be lost at any moment," Thornton said. "This truly is a miracle."

UM said Wednesday the procedure has never been performed in the United States. It was performed at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.

The name of the tooth that's selected is called the eyetooth because it's located directly under the eye.

Doctors said you can't see the tooth in the eye because it is covered by other layers, but the tooth keeps the lens stable and bonds it with the rest of the healthy parts of the eye.

Science fiction to us, but a miracle to Thornton and her family.

Thornton now has 20/70 vision and can recognize people and read tiny newspaper and magazine print with a magnifying glass. She will wear glasses the rest of her life, doctors said. Thornton said her greatest thrill so far has been seeing her three children and nine grand children for the first time in almost a decade.

And to think she almost wasn't able to have the surgery because she was going to have all her teeth removed a few years ago.

"When they told me I was like, 'Do What? You're going to put it where?'" Thornton said. 

Thornton underwent the surgery around Labor Day. She had tried stem cell surgery and other procedures to restore some vision, which she lost because of an allergic reaction to medication. But all of the efforts failed until now.

"Being blind was horrible after seeing for 51 years," Thornton said.

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