Epworth 3D printed jaw replacement surgery

It limited my food options. Something like a big fat steak was off the menu, unless it was cut into tiny pieces. It’s certainly had a negative impact.

A man who could barely open his mouth for almost four years has undergone surgery, having his jaw replaced with a 3D printed jaw devices at Epworth Freemasons.

The man in his 40s was only able to open his mouth two millimetres after the jaw bones mysteriously fused together. The average mouth opening is about 40-milimetres.

Doctors were unable to determine the cause of the fused jawbone. It is a condition normally brought on by trauma or disease.

The man (who has requested anonymity) said his condition gradually deteriorated.

“It was one of those things that slowly became worse, over a period of time,” he said,

“It was a few years back, where it seemed to get bad, quickly. I have been putting up with it, in the extreme state, for four years, but COVID-19 and another surgery delayed my ability to sort it out.”

The man was still able to eat solid food, cut into extremely small pieces, by squeezing it between his teeth. Enjoying anything as simple as a toasted cheese sandwich was not possible.

“It limited food options so something like a big fat steak was off the menu unless it was cut into tiny pieces. It certainly had an impact.”

The man was assessed by Oral Medicine specialist Associate Professor Michael Stubbs who referred him to Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon, Mr George Dimitroulis.

Mr Dimitroulis said, without surgery, the man was at risk of injury or death if he vomited or needed urgent medical treatment that would require a breathing tube to be inserted.

“Having a jaw that’s closed to that significant degree can potentially result in a disastrous situation,” Mr Dimitroulis said.

Surgical planning and custom 3D printing of the replacement jaw devices was done with millimetre accuracy, based on CT scans taken in the lead-up to surgery.

The patient had to be anaesthetised by sticking a breathing tube into his airway through his nose, as his restricted mouth opening was not wide enough to accommodate a breathing tube.

Mr Dimitroulis said the fused jaw was successfully released and replaced in a complex and highly challenging seven-hour operation.

“We surgically released the fused jaw and replaced it with fully customised 3D printed titanium jaw devices that restored his jaw function and allowed him to open his mouth normally again. Once we released the jaw, he was able to open his mouth about 24-milimetres straight away and that will improve as his jaw muscles loosen over time.”

“Using 3D printed jaw components has made it simpler, easier, more predictable and more precise so we get a result that is better than it was five years ago, with a faster recovery time”.

Before surgery, the patient was looking forward to eating a Tim Tam – something that just was not possible.

“You can’t really squash a Tim Tam, they’re pretty hard,” he said.

He has now conquered a Tim Tam and is back to eating normal food including hamburgers.


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