The global plastic market is growing at about 5% a year, with the world making and consuming about 600 billion pounds of plastic yearly. When dentists are concerned, plastic has been overlooked in lieu of more old-fashioned materials. That is, until one forward-thinking dentist came forward.
Globally, one of the most common dental surgeries practiced is cleft lip and palate repair. Shockingly enough, this surgery has been taught in dental schools for decades by using a Styrofoam cup.
It is no secret that any dentist who performs this surgery must be extremely careful, as one wrong cut or scratch can lead to serious speech impediments, problems chewing, and/or lifelong breathing issues. So why then is this incredibly delicate surgery practiced using outdated, and odd, technology?
The answer is simple: no one has created another model. Until now.
Toronto-based dentist Dr. Dale Podolsky has fused together his cosmetic dentistry expertise and his engineering background in order to create 3-D printed plastic material that resembles children’s mouths. These prototypes not only make it easier for dentists to have a better idea of what to expect when operating, but they also decrease the risk level of the surgery.
Dr. Christopher Forrest, a dentistry colleague, explains to Stat News why it is important to have a plastic model instead of a dense, Styrofoam cup.“It makes absolute sense,” he says, to invest in a surgical model that allows trainees to practice the repair in a low-stakes environment. “The cost of something going wrong on a patient is undoable.”
Podolsky’s model has reached incredible success in Canada, and one of its first shipments was to an international children’s charity that is dedicated to educating surgeons worldwide in the repair of cleft lips and palates.
The model is currently being developed for shipment overseas to developing countries in both Latin America and Africa within the next year.