IU student on the verge of getting a new smile

(WTHR Photo)
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WTHR) – Kaileigh Rayne Thomas has posed for most pictures in her life with her mouth closed.

"I'd rather you see my soft smile than my actual teeth," said Thomas.

The 21-year-old Indiana University student was born with a genetic condition called Ectodermal Dysplasia.

"My hair doesn't grow, my nails don't grow, I don't have sweat glands. No tear ducts. And then my teeth - I didn't get two full sets. So, it's kind of a mixture. They just decay because there's no enamel," said Thomas.

Thomas says she has undergone four previous surgeries at Riley Hospital for Children. She is used to the questions.

"You would get stares as soon as I walk in, immediate stares because I don't look like everyone else," said Thomas. "I've grown up with people asking do you have cancer? I'm like no. No cancer. One time, a guy told me you're on meth or you chew quarters."

Kaileigh Rayne Thomas has posed for most pictures throughout life with her mouth closed. (Photos provided by family)

Thomas' senior year at IU Bloomington is going to be much better. She is on the verge of getting new teeth. Thomas will have surgery in late October to remove her back teeth.

"They're all spaced out, all decayed. No matter how many times I brush them or anything. I can't wait to get rid of them," said Thomas.

Then in December, she will have the rest of her teeth removed and then have implants. If everything goes well, Thomas will be smiling with her new teeth in time for Christmas. Her mother is thrilled.

"I can't wait to see her with her teeth after 22 years of not smiling," said Dawn Rosell. "It's going to change my life because it's going to bring positive joy for me to see her. Every time she laughs and see those teeth and see her smiling, it's going to change my life forever."

Kaileigh shows her teeth. (WTHR Photo)

Much of the expensive medical costs are covered by the family who hired Thomas and her mom to clean their house. A GoFundMe account is raising additional funds.

"The Rector family and these other people who have donated and all these doctors - God has sent everyone. I'm so thankful and it's changed my life forever. I can never repay anyone for what they've done to help her get her smile," said Rosell.

Thomas is excited to see the final results.

"I'm already confident, but probably will be more confident. Not afraid to laugh or talk or anything. I will be alot more approachable," said Thomas.

"With my faith, I know this is God who blessed Kaileigh and I and our family with this miracle," said Rosell.

Rosell is hopeful her daughter's story will encourage Congress to pass the "Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act" (ELSA).

"I want that teeth matter. I want under the insurance that these are covered 100-percent so these kids don't have to have rotting teeth that smell," said Rosell. "I want them to be able to eat. Kaileigh only eats on the right side. Her teeth hurt. I don't want that for any child."