An 83-year-old woman operated on last summer was the first person to receive an entire 3D-printed jaw transplant, her Belgian doctors announced Monday. The woman’s own lower jaw was riddled with infection, and given her age, and the fact that reconstructive surgery would have been a long and painful process, her doctors decided to have a new jaw specially manufactured for her. The replacement jaw is made out of titanium, assembled in thousands of layers by a 3D printer. It took 4 hours of surgery to get the jaw in place, but that’s just a fifth of how long a reconstructive surgery session would have been. She will receive follow-up surgery later this month to have permanent dentures attached to the jaw.
The new jaw is about 30% heavier than her old jaw was, but the doctors say she’ll get used to it. Someday, though, patients may be able to get replacement bones printed in more bone-like material: scientists are working on getting 3D printers to accept calcium-based substances as ink.
Image courtesy of LayerWise
What’s the News: Parents going broke to pay for their offspring’s braces and orthodontistry can finally blame somebody besides their mildly malformed children: our farmer ancestors. A study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that people living in subsistence farming communities around the world have shorter, wider jaws than those in hunting and gathering societies. This leaves less room for teeth, which have changed little in size or abundance over human history—and may help explain why crooked choppers and a need for orthodontia are so common, study author Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel tells the BBC. “I have had four of my pre-molars pulled and that is the only reason that my teeth fit in my mouth,” she says.