New device allows for speedier jaw reconstruction

National Dental Centre Singapore researchers (from left) Dr Edwin Liu, Dr Goh Bee Tin and Dr Liu Yuchun with a mock-up of the new device.
National Dental Centre Singapore researchers (from left) Dr Edwin Liu, Dr Goh Bee Tin and Dr Liu Yuchun with a mock-up of the new device.ST PHOTO: ALVIN HO

People who require reconstruction of their lower jaw may soon be able to spend fewer hours in surgery and recuperate more quickly with the help of a new device.

The titanium modular endoprosthesis, developed by a team of researchers from the National Dental Centre Singapore, can be used to replace the affected part of the lower jaw. The current method uses a bone from the patient's lower leg.

After the section of the jaw is removed, the procedure involves affixing the device into holes drilled into the bone stumps and fixing screws to secure it to the jaw.

Currently, surgeons remove a bone in the patient's lower leg along with the blood vessels and shape it to fit the jaw of the patient. This requires an operation of up to 12 hours, three weeks of hospitalisation and a recovery period of two weeks, with possible complications such as infection, and extensive scarring on the leg.

The new way of reconstruction will lead to a shorter operation of four to eight hours, fewer post-operative complications, and a faster recovery of three days instead of two weeks.

"The old method will require the patient to do a surgery on the leg and the jaw. However, this new device will only require one surgery on the jaw," said principal investigator and senior consultant at the National Dental Centre Singapore, Dr Goh Bee Tin.

Patients usually require reconstruction of the jaw after suffering trauma, inflammatory diseases or oral cancer.

The National Dental Centre Singapore team has filed a patent application and clinical trials are expected to begin by 2020. They are also expecting to commercialise the product by 2025.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2018, with the headline 'New device allows for speedier jaw reconstruction'. Print Edition | Subscribe