Dentists at the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz are using the innovative technology of 3-D printing to create exact patient-customised models for various surgical procedures. This novel method helps to optimise individualised medicine by facilitating precise work in the fields of reconstructive surgery and implantology.

The technology of 3-D printing has revolutionised many different fields of work. Only initially used for prototyping, 3-D printing is now also applied in mass production and art, and even used in private households. There are many possibilities for the application of the technology for medical purposes as well and for the development of novel methods of treatment based on 3-D-printed models.

The University Medical Center fabricates its patient-customised 3-D models on-site at the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. With their in-house 3-D printer, the dentists are able to create exact models of even the smallest anatomical structures, such as complex bone tissue.

The individualised models are printed based on medical imaging, such as computed tomography, magnetic resonance tomography, and radiographs, and can help to improve many different procedures, including planning for mandibular reconstructions and the precise adaptation of grafts.

According to the dentists at the centre, this new approach has numerous advantages both for surgeons and for patients. Surgeons are enabled to prepare for every surgery in detail and to adjust each step to the individual patient by using 3-D-printed templates. The necessary models and templates can be printed on-site within a few days. This speeds up the whole procedure, which used to take several weeks owing to the 3-D printing being performed by external companies.

Owing to the optimised preparation, surgery time and the period of anaesthesia are reduced, accelerating the patient’s recovery. Moreover, the method improves the functional and aesthetic results of the surgery and protects the bone, gingiva and other surrounding tissue from damage.

In addition to its practical application, 3-D printing can be of use in dental research, for instance in implantology. In recent years, the centre has established several interdisciplinary research groups to investigate the interaction between human cells and tissue and materials foreign to the body—a matter that still poses a significant challenge for surgeons in the field of implantology and regenerative medicine.

Prof. Bilal al-Nawas, head of the BiomaTiCS research unit and senior physician of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, explained how 3-D printing has revolutionised his work: “We have succeeded in bridging research and practice: on the one hand, the 3-D printer enables us to plan accurate reconstructions for our patients at the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery quickly; on the other hand, it enables us to work with other BiomaTiCS working groups in our attempt to produce innovative materials for implantations and reconstructions.”

Original Source: The Dental