Current News

Dental & Oral Surgery Service Utilizes 3-D Printing Technology

What's New Image

VMTH oral surgeons are now able to utilize 3-D printing to create exact replicas of their patients’ skulls.

Recently, the Dentistry & Oral Surgery Service (DOSS) at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) partnered with the UC Davis Translating Engineering Advances to Medicine (TEAM) Prototyping Facility in the Department of Biomedical Engineering to create a cutting-edge teaching and clinical tool that will help make maxillofacial surgeries safer and easier for clients to understand. With the TEAM Prototyping Facility’s assistance, DOSS is now able to print a 3-D model based upon a CT scan. The end result is an exact, to-scale replica of a patient’s skull.

“It’s one thing to study a CT image on screen – we learn a tremendous amount about a patient that way,” states Dr. Frank Verstraete, Chief of DOSS. “But to be able to hold a replica of that same image in your hand and see exactly what your patient’s skull looks like takes the experience to a completely different level. The advantages of that are tenfold compared to a screen image.”

The replicas allow surgeons to accurately determine the extent and location of an injury or mass, see how close lesions are to vital structures such as the brain, and determine the potential consequences of making an incision into a particular area of the patient’s skull. In the case of DOSS’s groundbreaking jawbone regrowth trials, this new technology allows oral surgeons to accurately determine the size and shape of the plates that will be needed for the surgery, before the procedure begins. This ability to plan in advance greatly reduces the duration of surgeries, diminishes amount of time the patient is under anesthesia, and improves patient safety and outcome.

“One of the things I appreciate the most about the replicas is that it helps us to better explain the situation to our clients,” states VMTH oral surgeon Dr. Boaz Arzi. “If I bring this skull replica to the waiting room and let the clients see the exact injury or disease affecting their pet, they gain a much better understanding, and acceptance, of the recommended procedure. I have received many positive responses from clients who are excited that this technology exists, and that they are better able to understand the treatment plan for their pet.”
“The technology for this has existed since the 1980s,” states Steven Lucero, mechanical engineer and TEAM Prototyping Facility manager. “But we’ve only seen it emerge into clinical practice in the last few years, as many of the patents on this technology are expiring and the marketplace is becoming more competitive as a result. Consequently, we’re finally getting to see the great benefits that can come from this technology.”

This collaborative effort between DOSS and the TEAM Prototyping Facility is a great example of the advances in patient care that can be achieved and the cutting-edge clinical programs that can be developed through a multi-disciplinary approach.

Rob Warren, VMTH Communications & Marketing Officer