When you create a prosthetic, designed to replace a central piece of the body, its not just the original prosthetic you need to worry about, but all the pieces that connect to it as well. In the case of a prosthetic jaw, you then have to think about the gums and the teeth, all of which need to integrate directly into the prosthetic. Whether you use organic or artificial teeth, the issue is the same: There needs to be a structure that supports them, built into the jaw itself.
As integrating organic teeth with a prosthetic jaw is a ways beyond us at the moment, using a form of denture is the only method that truly makes sense. However, these dentures need to be integrated tightly into the prosthesis. This set are designed for the prototype LayerWise jaw, and were created after the jaw, intended for implantation a month after the jaw itself, so that the swelling from the initial implant would have dissipated. Like the LayerWise prototype, the implant uses the patient's CT scan data converted into DICOM format, as its guide. It has to. Since the jaw perfectly fits the patient, the teeth have to perfectly fit the jaw. If they don't, they may not be able to attach to the jaw in the first place. Just as worrisome, they may not mesh with the teeth affixed to the upper jaw if they are not based upon the patient's existing data. As a result, every set made, is unique, fitting the individual patient.
Fortunately, that task is not as costly as it sounds. The denture bridge and the attachment section are separate pieces. The task of the attachment piece is to fit into the prosthetic jaw via the prongs arrayed on its surface, and create a flush surface flat to the base of the mouth, inside. Once that is accomplished, the dentures can be manufactured as a separate unit, and fitted using normal methods. If they are damaged, they can be removed and replaced without disturbing either implant. Like the jaw itself, the attachment section is 3D printed, and takes less than two hours for an automated printer to assemble using titanium powder and a heat laser. This limits the cost to just that of the titanium powder 'ink' and the cost of a couple of hours of printer use. The design is based on the shape of the artificial lower and natural upper jaw, both taken from the patient's initial data, so most of the work is done automatically by the computer system, a technician only necessary to confirm the connecting piece fits the jaw in simulation before it is physically created. The denture bridge is then created later.
This is really the ideal method to use to create secondary prosthgetic systems. Using patient scan data, and automating the process as much as possible, costs are reduced to a minimum, at the same time as a best possible fit is achieved. The concept of making each part separate - jaw, connector, dentures, is ideal for implantation inside a human body as it means each piece is a simple shape which can be surgically implanted with the minimum possible fuss. They then connect together inside the body, in multiple separate operations, each occuring after the body has recovered from the one prior. If the worst comes to the worst and a piece is damaged, the entire system does not have to be replaced - the damaged piece can be removed, and a new one created to spec (again from the patient's original scan data), witgh a guarantee it will fit into place. This minimises the trauma to the patient at every stage, and maximises the ease of maintenance.
Further ReadingLarge Image Display: Making a Bespoke Jaw
Large Image Display: Prosthetic Jaw Hinging
Large Image Display: Connecting Teeth to Artificial Bone
ReferencesForm Fitting Prosthetics Using DICOM Data