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Printed jaw lets woman swallow again

Let's eat, Grandma

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3D printing techniques have been taken to jaw-dropping heights after an 83-year-old woman was given a replacement mandible. She becomes the first patient ever to be fitted with a printed lower jaw.

Given the old dear's age, and the fact that her lower jaw was so badly infected, traditional surgery was deemed too much of a risk, prompting doctors to turn to a 3D printer for assistance.

The printer that carried out the task uses laser sintering. The object is built up out of layers of titanium, introduced as particles which are fused together with a laser. The final build was then coated with bio-ceramics, making the bone-substitute compatible with body tissue.

The new jaw allowed the lady to start chatting and swallowing food within a day of being put in place. The procedure also took less time than usual, completed in a few hours rather than the 20 or so it can take for microsurgical reconstruction work.

The operation took place last year, developed by the Biomed Research Institute at Hasselt University, Belgium in co-operation with surgeons of the Orbis Medical Center Sittard-Geleen and Xilloc Medical, Maastricht, and Cam Bioceramics of Leiden.

Perhaps in the future, the fact teenagers have ruined their teeth on Haribo binges will cease to matter. They'll simply run upstairs, download the 3D blueprints from The Pirate Bay and print a new set off, provided daddy can afford the titanium cartridges. ®

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