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

The turtle, who was found injured in June 2010, had two holes in hisshell, gouges caused by boat propellers—one the size of an adultforearm, the other as big as a baseball. In addition, Andre had acollapsed lung, pneumonia, an exposed spinal cord, and severeinfections.

Experts at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Juno Beach, Fla, a nonprofit agencythat 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 negativepressure to promote new skin growth and kill infection.

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

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

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