SAO PAULO • Ms Denise Vicentin looks in the mirror and bursts into tears. After losing her right eye and part of her jaw to cancer, the Brazilian woman is getting a new face - thanks to a digitally engineered prosthesis.
"Today I can say how much better I will feel being out in the streets. I have no words," said the 53-year-old at a Sao Paulo clinic after being fitted with a prosthesis for a missing chunk of her face.
Researchers at Paulista University are employing smartphones and 3D printing to create digital facial impressions used to make silicone prostheses. The pioneering method has slashed costs and halved production times.
"In the past, it took much longer work... and the process was very invasive, with material on the patient's face to get an imprint of their appearance," said lead researcher Rodrigo Salazar. "Today, with cellphone pictures, we create a three-dimensional model."
Ms Vicentin is one of over 50 patients treated by Dr Salazar and his colleagues since 2015. The team specialises in maxillofacial prosthetics, a branch of dentistry focused on treating people disfigured by birth defects, disease or trauma.
Their technique was published in 2016 in the peer-reviewed Journal of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery. To make the prosthesis as real-looking as possible, Dr Salazar and his colleagues carefully matched its colouring to Ms Vicentin's skin and blue-green eye.
The process for making the final prosthesis took 12 hours - half the time for conventional methods.
Conventional techniques for making prosthesis models involve equipment costing up to US$500,000 (S$674,500), Dr Salazar said. "The method demonstrates that you don't need big investments to use advanced technology."