With the help of Florida orthodontist Alberto Vargas, DMD, MS, Jupiter, Fla, Andre the sea turtle is getting a second chance at life in the sea. Vargas fitted the 171-pound sea turtle with braces to help heal his damaged shell. Andre is now ready to be released.

The turtle, who was found injured in June 2010, had two holes in his shell, gouges caused by boat propellers—one the size of an adult forearm, the other as big as a baseball. In addition, Andre had a collapsed lung, pneumonia, an exposed spinal cord, and severe infections.

Experts at Loggerhead Marinelife Center , Juno Beach, Fla, a nonprofit agency that rehabilitates injured and sick sea turtles, cleaned the wound, covering it with a black foam and clear plastic to promote healing. Andre’s shell was hooked up to a plastic tube that uses negative pressure to promote new skin growth and kill infection.

Vargas was brought in to push Andre’s shell together using braces like bridges to either side of the wound to promote growth. Each day, caregivers twisted a key that clicked to adjust the braces. The shell expanded about one inch, lessening the size of the hole.

“I’m not aware of this ever being done on a turtle before. We changed the shape of his shell, just like we change the shape of a patient’s jaw,” said Vargas in an interview with The Palm Beach Post News.

After 13 months of treatment, Andre is now ready to be released. His skin, once fully exposing organs, is now hard enough to survive in the depths of the Atlantic. Andre can expect to enjoy his new shell for a long time: green turtles grow up to 400 pounds and live 80 years.