After 18 Years, Daniela Finally Has Her Smile Back

Growing up, Daniela refused to smile. Now, she’s excited to take on the world

Looking back on her cleft journey, Daniela vividly remembers a conversation on a bumpy bus ride when she was just 11 years old. Her mother turned to her, face full of devotion and concern, and told Daniela that they needed to keep working to treat her cleft.

It was a scary thing to hear as a child, especially after already having gone through two surgeries.

Daniela looked at her reflection in the bus window. Her lips were pressed together tightly. The prior surgeries had made life better, but she still suffered so much. Cruel classmates were quick to point out her flaws. She learned that if she never smiled, people wouldn’t see the teeth she was so ashamed of. And neither would she.

But, looking up to her mother’s reflection, Daniela saw that she was smiling.

“I will always be by your side,” she said. “We will find you the best treatment out there. I promise.”

Even after surgery, children with clefts often suffer severe dental problems and struggle to speak and hear clearly, among other issues. A plethora of different treatments are necessary, and finding people who specialize in cleft care can be difficult — and expensive.

Putting the time, money, and research into finding people who knew how to properly care for Daniela and her cleft was a luxury her parents feared they couldn’t afford.

But, within a year of that bus ride, Smile Train had brought light to the Flores family. Our model of treating the whole patient, for free, perfectly matched Daniela’s needs.

Because Smile Train trains local healthcare professionals all around the world, the Floreses would never have to worry about waiting on doctors to fly in and out of Mexico City, leaving their daughter out to dry in her healing process. Our “teach a man to fish” approach means that Daniela could get the cleft care she’d been waiting for close to home.

It was exactly what Daniela’s mother had been searching for since she held her for the very first time all those years ago. Finally, she could rest easy knowing that her daughter was in the hands of cleft care professionals.

Unlike most teens, Daniela was thrilled to have braces. Her cleft left her with misaligned and missing teeth and vulnerable to tooth decay. Orthodontics meant she would finally be able to smile with confidence. Plus, her orthodontist is like a second mother to her.

Dr. Scarlett has been with Daniela since day one of her Smile Train journey and has been there through every step, big and small, in Daniela’s life for the past seven years.

Even after all this time, Dr. Scarlett still recognizes how anxious the treatment process can be not just for patients, but for their entire families. Smile Train partners always want to provide the utmost emotional support to everyone involved. That’s why nothing goes unexplained. Being able to deeply understand Daniela’s cleft and the steps needed to heal it dispelled the family’s fears. They feel blessed to be able to put full trust into Dr. Scarlett and the rest of Daniela’s cleft care team. After all, they all share the same goal: to help Daniela live life to the fullest.

Today, Daniela is unstoppable. She’s shed her self-conscious shell and, at 18, feels ready to take on the world. Her mother always knew she had a perfect smile – now Daniela does, too.

You have the power to help children smile again.