It’s the first surgery of its kind ever performed in the U.S. — a procedure that used a woman’s tooth to help restore her sight.

To 60-year-old Kay Thornton, it’s nothing short of a miracle. “I didn’t think I’d ever see again,” Thornton said. “I really didn’t.”

Nine years ago, a rare skin condition called Stevens-Johnson syndrome severely scarred her cornea and stole her sight “It’s very frustrating, because these patients are blind because the front part of the eye is scarred down,” Victor Perez, M.D., associate professor of ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, told Ivanhoe.

The key to restoring Thornton’s sight was found in her mouth. For the first time in the U.S., surgeons implanted Thornton’s own tooth in her eye to hold a prosthetic lens in place. “I said, a tooth from my mouth, you’re gonna put it in my eye?” Thornton said.

First, doctors replaced her dried out cornea with tissue from inside her cheek. “Then, we take the tooth and bone that communicates with that lining all the time in the mouth, and we put it in the eye,” Dr. Perez explained.

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