nanyang_technological_university_logoWe’ve seen many promising projects emerging from the brilliant minds at Nanyang Technological University, from collaborating to create new materials for 3D printed titanium implants to developing 3D printing housing—just to name a couple of examples—but now, they are involved in work that has the potential to affect all of us one day.

Dental issues are generally something that everyone has to deal with at some point. While you might be one of those lucky people who has never had a cavity in your life, as the years pass the chances increase that you may have a problem with at least one tooth, whether it’s a cavity, abscess or perhaps an injury due to a crack or something painful. Some of these issues ultimately lead to the removal of the tooth. What then? While you may have many of the typical daily life stresses going on in your life, having to deal with tooth pain, extractions, and then the follow-up plan can really turn your world upside down—not to mention your wallet.

download-34The solutions aren’t always successful—or pain-free—either. From implants to grafts, dentists and patients are working together around the world as you read trying to bridge the gaps, literally, left behind after necessary and sometimes complex dental procedures. For the past five years now, NTU has been collaborating with National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS) to 3D print scaffolds that may encourage bone growth and prevent the need for grafts altogether.

Featuring a completely unique design with a porous, synthetic material, these scaffolds have already been successful in testing with seven patients, and a new trial is planned to include 132 individuals. The scaffolds, already patented, are effective as they are able to contain bone-forming cells in the empty tooth sockets.

Dr. Goh Bee Tin, the deputy director of research and education at NDCS, see this as a process that could be very helpful in the aging population within Singapore as dental issues likely swing upward overall.

“Bone substitutes take a long time to be absorbed by the body,” said Dr Goh. “In comparison, the scaffold is absorbed fully and much faster by the body, and is cheaper to make.”

The scientists are hopeful that their new scaffolds could be released in three years as they work with Osteopore International for manufacturing of the materials.

(Photo: Osteopore)

[Photo: Osteopore]

As NDCS has continued their work using 3D technology for progressive dental processes, they’ve also begun using 3D scanning and printing to create models to act as surgical guides for doctors in performing corrective jaw surgery. With the 3D printed models, surgeons are able to train for the procedures using skull models for simulation. They can also show 3D printed templates which are actually placed on the jaw during surgery to guide the doctor.

The 3D models also serve the purpose of educating the patient, as was the case when 22-year-old Priscilla Chan was about to have corrective jaw surgery.

“It was quite exciting to see what I would look like after surgery and I felt safer,” she said.

NDCS reports that over 140 cases involving jaw surgeries last year used 3D technology as treatment was planned for patients.

“The models make the surgery more precise… surgeons have a clearer idea of what they should do and what vital anatomy to avoid,” said Dr Chew Ming Tak, senior consultant at the department of orthodontics at NDCS.

Discuss further in the 3D Printed Dental Scaffolds forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Straits Times]
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