Damien Beattie now has a real-life example of the benefits of 3D printing to share with his design and technology students – his own jaw.
The teacher went through a gruelling double procedure, followed by a long recovery, to correct a facial deformity ahead of his wedding.
“Waking up from that surgery and those following three or four days in hospital were probably the hardest things I’ve ever done,” he said.
Mr Beattie developed a misaligned jaw during a teenage growth spurt, with one side left shorter than other, but he was able to relax for his wedding photos in December 2022 thanks to an innovative reconstruction treatment at Melbourne’s Epworth Freemasons hospital.
“It’s just so inspiring to see him go through something so huge and to come out at the other end still smiling, which is great,” his wife Sally said.
Mr Beattie, who grew up on New South Wales’ Central Coast, had tried to fix the problem when he got braces as a 16-year-old.
“But they didn’t really have any answers back then – I think the only thing was to break your jaw and realign everything, and Mum was very hesitant on doing that,” he said.
“Through school I probably didn’t notice it but when I started at university everyone was getting camera phones so you were in a lot more photos and selfies.
“I really noticed it in photos with my fiancée and it started to annoy me.”
With the wedding planned, Mr Beattie’s mother contacted oral and maxillofacial surgeon Mr George Dimitroulis, who in 2015 had made history at Epworth Freemasons by performing the first Australian surgery using 3D-printed jaw components.
“I’m basically like an orthopaedic surgeon of the jaws,” Mr Dimitroulis said.
“My focus is on restoring jaw function, trying to reduce pain, and if the patient has a deformity of the jaw we also correct that at the same time. Epworth have really been on the ball when it comes to innovation.”
Mr Dimitroulis said surgery using custom 3D components was digitally planned, with millimetre accuracy, weeks in advance.
“Using a series of scans, we can develop a plan like putting together a Lego set, showing exactly where cutting and drilling has to occur and where every screw will go,” he said.
The first stage of Mr Beattie’s procedure required eight hours of surgery to correct his jawbone, followed by another operation to insert a prosthetic chin.
He then faced a six-month recovery as the muscles and other soft tissues in his jaw formed around the new bone structure.
Through the surgery and fully recovered, Mr Beattie was able to enjoy his wedding and happily pose for photos too.
Read more: 3D cure for man’s mystery jaw agony