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Three-Dimensional Printing: A Novel Approach to the Creation of Obturator Prostheses Following Palatal Resection for Malignant Palate Tumors

Bartellas, Michael, MSc*; Tibbo, Jamie, MD*; Angel, Doug, MD*; Rideout, Arthur, MD*; Gillis, Joshua, MD

Journal of Craniofacial Surgery: January 2018 - Volume 29 - Issue 1 - p e12–e15
doi: 10.1097/SCS.0000000000003987
Brief Clinical Studies

Background: A subgroup of patients who have an oronasal fistula live in areas that have limited access to oral prosthetics. For these individuals, a temporary prosthesis, such as a palatal obturator, may be necessary in order to speak, eat, and breath properly. The creation of an obturator, which requires a highly trained prosthodontist, can take time and can be expensive. Through the current proof-of-concept study, there is an attempt to create a patient-specific palatal obturator through use of free and publicly available software, and a low-cost desktop 3-dimensional printer. The ascribed study may provide a means to increase global access to oral prosthetics if suitable biomaterials are developed.

Methods: Computerized tomography data were acquired from a patient who had an oronasal fistula. Through use of free software, these data were converted into a 3-dimensional image. The image was manipulated in order to isolate the patient's maxilla and was subsequently printed. The palatal obturator models were designed, and reformed, in correspondence with the maxilla model design. A final suitable obturator was determined and printed with 2 differing materials in order to better simulate a patient obturator.

Results: Creating a suitable palatal obturator for the specified patient model was possible with a low-cost printer and free software.

Conclusions: With further development in biomaterials, it may be possible to design and create an oral prosthesis through use of low-cost 3-dimensional printing technology and freeware. This can empower individuals to attain good healthcare, even if they live in rural, developing, or underserviced areas.

*Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, St John's, Canada.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Michael Bartellas, MSc, 56 Battery Road, St John's, A1A 1A4, NL, Canada; E-mail:

Received 23 March, 2017

Accepted 8 June, 2017

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

© 2018 by Mutaz B. Habal, MD.