In a world first, doctors have completed a jaw reconstruction using 3D printing technology. New dental innovations have come a long way since cavemen used bones to clean their teeth!
Who could ever imagine that surgeons would one day PRINT a jaw for a woman with cancer?
3D printing technology is so incredible, it practically defies belief (more so than other impressive developments).
As far as new dental innovations go, it doesn’t get much better than automated jaw reconstruction. Just ask the Welsh woman who now has implants inside her jaw that were reconstructed using 3D digital imaging.
Debbie Hawkins, 40, underwent the successful surgery in August last year. Her doctors are calling this a world first.
The team at Morriston Hospital in the UK are very good at what they do, having now completed at least five jaw reconstructions. They combine 3D printed titanium implants with traditional bone grafts to create an exact match for each patient. This secures the fibula bone in place, while preserving the aesthetic shape of the jawline.
In Ms Hawkins case, it meant she could leave hospital after two weeks and return to work after three months.
“When they told me what the procedure involved I was scared at first. I really didn’t know what to expect. But what they have done, and the aftercare I have received, has been absolutely amazing.”
Debbie Hawkins, BBC interview
Better recovery – the benefits of using 3D printing technology for jaw reconstruction:
First surgeons cut the massive tumour out from Ms Hawkins jaw. This involved removing part of her lower jaw. The team then took a CT image of the patient’s jaw on the side that hadn’t been compromised. They mirrored this shape when designing the implant.
Amazingly, the 3D printing technology was so precise, the surgeon didn’t need to adjust the titanium implant. It fit perfectly.
This allowed the team to concentrate on connecting the blood supply in the fibula section with blood vessels in the neck. A particularly delicate and hair-raising task! The computer mapped everything out, so surgeons knew exactly what to expect before they started. This removed uncertainty and reduced surgery time by two hours.
Madhav Kittur, the consulting surgeon, says this is a major deal, considering the procedure usually takes eight to 10 hours!
“This is a big advance. It’s better aesthetically, the patient is under anaesthetic for less time, and recovery is better.”
Although we haven’t yet measured it, I would even say that the length of stay in hospital is also reduced, Dr Kittur said.
How does 3D printing technology work?
A 3D printer creates solid, touchable objects one thin layer at a time, as difficult as that is to imagine.
It all begins with a digital scan, which stores accurate data of the real life object. ‘Slicing software’ then divides the object into thin cross sections and prints each layer on top of the previous. These layers can be complex, creating moving parts and wheels on the same object, when required.
3D printing technology was invented in the 1980s and has come a long way since then.
There are different types of 3D printers. For example, some release a molten or semi-liquid material, while others exude a resin.
Highly advanced 3D printers cost big companies hundreds of thousands of dollars, but anyone interested in printing a cup or similar can buy a “basic” version for a few hundred dollars.
If you want to see how the printing process works, check out this video:
The possibilities are endless with 3D printing technology…
You can now buy furniture that’s been created by a machine from scratch.
There are people walking around with prosthetics that have been manufactured by a printer.
And entire houses are being assembled using parts that have been put together using 3D printing technology.
Scientists are even looking into ways to print living organs that can be transplanted into humans.
This might not be too far away, considering what’s already been achieved!
It’s not just about 3D printing technology! Other digital leaps in dental:
3D printing technology isn’t a foreign concept to the team at Mona Vale Dental, since we’re already embracing digital innovation.
For example, we make good use of 3D Cone Beam Imaging to provide a detailed diagnosis. We then use 3D printing technology to make a surgical guide for the accurate, minimally invasive placement of implants.
We also fit top-quality crowns using digital technology. This entire process is completed on the same day as your appointment, which means you don’t have to wait weeks for your crown to arrive.
For more information, please contact our friendly team and we’ll go out of your way to help you.
Also published on Medium.