Collaboration Gives Teenager Full-Mouth Restoration

Dentistry Today


Over the course of five years, teenager Colton Ficek lost most of his teeth to toxic epidermal necrolysis. But Dental Departures, the Sani Dental Clinic, and Straumann collaborated to provide him with a free full mouth restoration, which his medical and dental insurance carriers otherwise refused to cover. 

It’s unclear how Colton, from Baker City, Oregon, initially contracted the disease, which began to manifest during a family vacation. Colton’s mother, Shelley Conro, noticed a rash on his skin, which soon developed into sores. Colton was admitted to a hospital with a swollen face and severe fever. Doctors remained unsure of what was causing these symptoms.

Days passed before he was diagnosed with life-threatening toxic epidermal necrolysis and sent to the Legacy Oregon Burn Center in Portland. His skin blistered all over and peeled off, and it was only with specialty care that he could be kept safe and eventually recover from the first stage of the disease.

But as a result of his skin peeling off within his mouth, he was left with scar tissue that blocked his saliva glands. Without a constant supply of saliva to fight harmful bacteria, his teeth began to decay. Fillings were used to try and patch his teeth, but it was a constant cycle of damage control. Eventually, all of his teeth had to be pulled. 

Shelley’s medical and dental insurance would only provide removable dentures, which the family though was a far from ideal solution for an active teenage boy. But All-on-4 dental implants replacing both his top and bottom arch would have cost more than $40,000. Shelley then set up an online campaign to start fundraising. 

Dental Departures, a Bangkok-based online medical travel agency that works with American patients unable to afford the high prices of domestic dental treatment to get care abroad, saw the campaign and reached out to the family.

“Everybody deserves quality dental care they can afford, and our mission is to help match patients in need with international quality dental services at affordable prices,” said Dental Departures CEO Paul McTaggart.

“Too often, we hear of nightmare scenarios of people in real need of dental care they can’t afford. Colton’s case was unique because he was such a young man with his whole life ahead of him. He was facing an entire lifetime with no teeth,” said McTaggart.

Dental Departures then got to work arranging Colton’s implant treatment.

“Even after our tickets were bought, hotels booked, work vacation scheduled, and everything else, I still was like, there’s no way this is actually happening,” said Colton’s older brother, Chase Ficek. 

Sani Dental of Los Algodones in Baja California, Mexico, contact Straumann, which agreed to supply the implants needed for All-on-4 treatment. Dental Departures agreed to help cover the costs, which included flights and accommodation, while Sani Dental waived the treatment fees.

“Given his young age and medical history, Colton was a challenging case for everyone involved in his treatment. With the expertise of our maxillofacial surgeon, Dr. Hermes Somonte, and our prosthodontist, Dr. Karen Caballero, our All-on-4 treatment not only restored function to his mouth but also gave him a bright white smile,” said Dr. Javier Muñiz Pérez, medical director at Sani Dental.  

Shelley admits that she had preconceptions about the quality of the clinics in Mexico before arriving at Sani Dental.

“I work at a medical facility, so I know what’s expected in the United States in terms of hygiene and cleanliness. You would think a dental clinic in Mexico was not going to follow procedures the same as we do in the United States. I can tell you that at Sani Dental it’s even better. They do a wonderful job,” said Shelley. 

“When I look at Colton and all that he’s been through, he was overdue for a miracle. Dental Departures and Sani Dental have been that miracle. They’ve bought his smile back,” said Chase.

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