National success for NNUH Oral Health team

The remarkable work of the Oral Health team at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital has been recognised in the national Smile Awards, designed to celebrate the highest standards of aesthetic dentistry.

The Oral Health team was shortlisted in two categories after showing how they reconstructed the faces of two women – one who had been badly disfigured in a vicious and unprovoked attack and the other who had part of her jaw removed due to cancer.

The team beat off competition from hundreds of professionals– most of them cosmetic dentists working in the private sector – to be chosen for the final shortlist.

Julie Cooper, from Norwich, made headline news in 2000 when she was attacked in broad daylight while walking along the footpath opposite Norfolk's County Hall. She has lost count of the number of operations and hospital visits it took to repair the wounds – the final procedure, to replace some of her teeth, took place last year and she is delighted with the results.

Her initial surgery was carried out by maxillofacial surgeon Mr Roger Rees, who used bone from her hip to rebuild the bone structure of her face. There followed years of plastic surgery to help cover the scars, as well as complex dentistry to restore teeth knocked out during the attack.

“My worst memories were when my children shied away from me because I looked so horrendous,” Julie recalled. “Now when I look in the mirror I see myself again – and that’s down to the fantastic work of the team at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

“I was delighted to be able to support them in the Smile Awards because I think they deserve to be recognised for the amazing work they do. I wouldn’t be sitting here today if it wasn’t for them.”

Despite a lengthy police investigation Julie’s assailant has never been found. Now 36, she is a school business manager at Wymondham High School and her two daughters are aged 12 and 13.

Jane Aldridge, from Watton, was just 24 and the mother of a three-year-old daughter when her dentist noticed a lump on her gum and advised her to have it investigated.

“Before I knew it I was in hospital having a cancerous tumour removed,” she recalled.” Nearly ten years later the cancer was found to be spreading and this time a large part of her jaw had to be removed in a complex, ten-hour operation involving maxillofacial surgeon Mr Richard James and two plastic surgeons.

Bone from her leg was used to replace the structure of her jaw and a temporary dental plate was inserted. For two years she could only eat on one side,until the bone was strong enough to support dental implants. Her last operation took place last May.

“It was quite traumatic to have major surgery done on my leg and my face at the same time but really I was so lucky that the original lump was spotted by my dentist,” said Jane. “I would urge anyone with any kind abnormality in their mouth – mine was rather like a small white mouth ulcer – to get it checked out.”

Restorative dentistry consultant Mr Adrian Slaney commented: “NNUH is a specialist centre for head and neck cancer so we have a great deal of experience in maxillofacial techniques. We plan each procedure carefully using computer software and we work together to come up with designs for prostheses and devices that will work for each individual patient.

“I commend the courage of these patients because many have gone through a great deal of trauma and their reconstructive work can take years to complete. We are very grateful to both Julie and Jane for their support in the Smile awards.”

Wednesday 6th of May 2009 01:00:52 PM