PHOENIX - Imagine feeling the need to hide while you eat because it’s difficult to keep food from falling out of your mouth. That’s something one Valley man has dealt with his entire life, and thanks to a Phoenix doctor and a rare surgery, it won’t be a problem much longer.

After more than 20 years of having to stay away from certain common foods like sandwiches, Joshua Zapata is finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Today is a very big day for him," said Dr. Sudheer Surpure. "We’re just going to wire these wires that go from the top jaw to the bottom jaw.”

Zapata was born with severe malocclusion or overcrowding of teeth. Surpure, who works at Banner University Medical Center, performed the exceptional surgery weeks ago. This week, Zapata's jaw was unwired and he is finally seeing his new and improved mouth.

“To me, it looks a little weird, but I guess it’s what you would call normal.” Zapata said.

After two decades, he’s taken aback by the look of this new normal and the feel.

“It’s really sore on the sides over here," he said. "I can’t really open too wide, but I can at least open now.”

Dr. Surpure says the seven-and-a-half-hour surgery is very tedious. Before the operation, there was a large gap between the top and bottom teeth. That made it difficult to eat burgers and sandwiches because parts of the meal would fall out of his mouth.

“His is much more severe than the average person so he has a big functional problem. Obviously, this will make a big cosmetic difference as well," Dr. Surpure said.

To correct the problem, Dr. Surpure broke Zapata's jaw and made several cuts. Now, Zapata is retraining his bite. In the coming weeks, he will be on a modified diet.

As for deciding what he’ll eat first when Dr. Surpure gives the green light, that's a tough one.

“There’s too many choices," he said. "I think I’ll just go to a buffet or something.”

And this time, he won’t be sitting alone.

Dr. Surpure says he recommends anyone born with a condition like this should try to get orthodontics work as soon they can, if it is possible.