A Bangalore man is smiling happily since he was fitted with a 3D printed denture. Not only that: he’s talking and eating more easily since the denture closes a hole in his mouth left by oral cancer surgery. Although his cancer treatment meant he couldn’t get dental implants, the 3D printing allowed him to find a satisfactory solution to his unusual problem.
As with most cancers, if oral cancer isn’t detected soon enough, surgery is often required to remove it. In the case of this man, by the time the cancer was detected, surgical removal included not only a significant portion of his upper jaw, it included a large portion of the roof of his mouth. He was left with just over half a smile on the top. He had both central incisors and everything on the left side, but the rest of it was just empty space, which made him feel uncomfortable with his smile.
There were also major functional problems as a result of his surgery. It was hard for him to eat or talk with the opening that basically went from his mouth to his sinuses.
But before this problem could be addressed, he experienced additional complications. Radiation therapy led to lockjaw. This is, unfortunately, a relatively common side effect after radiation therapy for the jaw. Both the chewing muscles and the temporomandibular joint can be negatively impacted by radiation therapy, though we weren’t told what specifically caused his lockjaw.
Reconstructing lost teeth with dental implants is common, but it couldn’t be used in this man’s case. Radiation therapy impairs the ability of the bone to heal, which is why many people with oral cancer can’t get dental implants right away. Often it’s possible later if cancer doesn’t return, at which point a bone graft may be necessary.
In this man’s case, a CT scan was used to determine the exact extent of the missing bone. Then doctors designed a prosthetic to replace the missing area. This was then used to create a wax try-in model, similar to the normal denture process. When the fit was determined to be right, the final denture was constructed.
It is exciting how continually advancing technology gives us new and better reconstructive dentistry options for helping people with sometimes significant damage to achieve a healthy, attractive smile.