How a 3D-Printed Jaw Let a Woman Eat Again

If dental hygiene isn't high on your priorities, don't worry: now you can just print a new set of teeth. Last year, an 83-year-old woman had her entire lower jaw replaced with a 3D printed replica.

The surgery, carried out by doctors from the University of Hasselt, Belgium, saw them replace the woman's original, badly infected jaw with a 3D-printed titanium and bioceramic version. The 3D printer in question uses laser sintering, where layers of titanium are built up and a laser used to fuse the correct particles together. The whole thing was coated in ceramic to make it compatible with bodily tissue. It weighs 3.7oz — just 1oz heavier than a real lower jaw.

Jaw replacement isn't a pleasant experience, and given the age of the patient, conventional surgery was considered too risky — hence the experiment with 3D printing. It seems the operation was a success: one day after the procedure, the lady could start talking and swallowing.

I don't buy in whole-heartedly to the concept that 3D printing will change the way we live, at least not just yet, but I have to admit that I find this application impressive. Still, if you don't fancy the idea of replacing part of your head with a 3D-printed replica, maybe you should just make an effort to look after your teeth. [3ders via BoingBoing; Image: De Pers]