Safe Haven

Compassionate, personalized care saves refugee’s ravaged smile.

Since a civil war erupted in Syria nine years ago, more than 5 million inhabitants have fled their ravaged homeland to escape the violence.

Photo courtesy of Rukaieh Naileh

Rukaieh Naileh

Rukaieh Naileh is among those who found refuge elsewhere.

Along with her husband, who owned an appliance store in the capital city of Damascus, and three children, Rukaieh first went to neighboring Jordan in 2015. From there she made her way to the United States.

The family eventually settled in Boynton Beach, where adjusting to life in America became more difficult for Rukaieh when a raging toothache made finding a good dentist one of her first priorities. That search proved to be as painful as the toothache.

Because she was new to the country and spoke virtually no English, Rukaieh struggled for months to find a dentist who accepted her insurance. When she finally did, his treatment plan horrified her.

Due to the inordinate number of broken and badly decayed teeth he found, the dentist recommended removing several teeth. Frightened by that prospect, Rukaieh opted instead to endure the pain until she could find a dentist who could save her teeth.

She eventually found that dentist through her husband, who found work as a handyman and made some repairs for Naved Fatmi, DMD, at Town Square Dentistry. Though his practice did not accept Rukaieh’s insurance, Dr. Fatmi urged her to visit nonetheless.

“We want to take care of your infection today so that it doesn’t lead to overall systemic health,” says Dr. Fatmi, whose practice offers patients a number of payment options. “When necessary, payments can be extended.”

Allaying Fears

“Rukaieh came to us last July, and she was very nervous about having any work done at all, which was unfortunate, because she needed a lot of work,” says Dr. Fatmi’s associate, Christiane Murillo, DMD.

“The most pressing issue was a left lateral incisor not right in front but just to the side. That was what she came in for, but all of her teeth were in bad shape. She had several broken teeth and a great deal of decay and gum infection all throughout.

“Because of her fears, which included being terrified of needles, we knew we were going to need to take baby steps with her. We eventually convinced her of what needed to be done to save her teeth, and she agreed to let us do it.”

The work began with a repair of that left lateral incisor, which had become dark and sensitive to cold. To correct that problem, Dr. Murillo needed to place a filling, because the cavity causing Rukaieh’s pain had not yet reached the nerve.

The next step was to perform a deep cleaning of Rukaieh’s gums to prevent the spread of infection. At the same time, Rukaieh was educated on the basics of maintaining good oral hygiene, including how to properly floss and brush.

“I don’t believe she had ever been properly instructed on how to do some of those things,” Dr. Murillo says. “I’m not sure the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene is something that was ever stressed to her.

“We gave her an introduction to home care and general dentistry. We also spent a lot of time listening to her so that we could better understand her fears and concerns. We know, for example, that she likes to have a box of tissues by her, so we made sure she had that. By doing those little things and explaining everything we did and why, we eventually developed a trust, and she became more comfortable in the chair.”

With Rukaieh’s greatest fears eased and her most pressing dental issues corrected, Dr. Murillo took on the task of repairing the other problems found during the initial examination.
“We started by repairing the worst cavities first; and again, one of our primary goals was to go very slowly with her and keep her comfortable so that she would continue to come in and get the work done,” Dr. Murillo explains.

“We really emphasized talking her through each visit. We’d tell her, We’re putting a topical anesthetic on now, and she would sit there for a while and close her eyes. That helped put her at ease and allowed us to do our work.”

Miraculous Transformation

That work has included “a little bit of everything,” Dr. Murillo notes.

Fillings were placed where needed. Dr. Murillo also crowned a few failing or broken teeth, performed one root canal and completed a second deep cleaning.

The result is a transformation that can be described as miraculous. When Rukaieh came to America, she was in danger of losing virtually every tooth. Now, she has a healthy, lovely smile that she’s proud to show off.

Since they fixed my teeth, I’ve been happy to smile. One time after Dr. Murillo fixed my tooth, I was so happy that I cried.” – Rukaieh

“Before, I was very shy to smile or talk to someone because my mouth looked so bad,” Rukaieh says. “But, since they fixed my teeth, I’ve been happy to smile. One time after Dr. Murillo fixed my tooth, I was so happy that I cried.”

The repair that brought those tears was a bonding procedure to even out some chips in Rukaieh’s front teeth. Her response was so heartfelt and genuine that it even brought Dr. Murillo and her staff to tears.

“Yes, I cried, and my assistant cried that day,” Dr. Murillo confirms. “But that’s kind of what it’s all about here. My goal with patients is to put a bright, beautiful, healthy smile on their face and to help them keep it. That’s why we spent so much time educating Rukaieh on the importance of good home care and oral hygiene and why we tried to make her comfortable. That bright, beautiful, healthy smile was our goal, and she has that now.

“In terms of her oral health, it’s turned around 180 degrees, because she’s doing what she needs to do at home and coming in regularly for her hygiene appointments. And she’s no longer nervous when she comes in. In fact, I think she actually likes coming in.”

She does.

“Everyone there is so nice to me that, yes, it makes me happy just to go see them,” Rukaieh acknowledges. “They are all so good to me; I cannot believe it. That’s why I am so happy to have found Dr. Fatmi and Dr. Murillo.

“They have helped me so much, I cannot thank them enough. They are so good to me, and Dr. Fatmi, he is a sweetheart. He is like a brother to me. He and Dr. Murillo are the best doctors I know. I love them and all the people who work with them.”

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    • Town Square Dentistry

      Town Square Dentistry provides full service dental care in east Boynton Beach. Their state-of-the-art dental office provides comprehensive dental services including cosmetic, restorative and general dental procedures. Do you have a dental e... Read More

    • Christiane Murillo, DMD

      Christiane Murillo, DMD, is a general, restorative and cosmetic dentist who received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and her dental degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Murillo perf... Read More