New joint design unlocks improvements for jaw repairs

A research collaboration with OMX Solutions.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne’s School of Engineering, together with maxillofacial surgeon Dr George Dimitroulis, have developed the world’s first customisable design for a prosthetic jaw joint.

The new design offers greater movement of the jaw, improved facial balance and improved medical outcomes for hundreds of patients each year who need their jaw joint — the temporomandibular joint — replaced. This could because of a congenital abnormality, injury or, increasingly, osteoarthritis.

At the University of Melbourne, Dr David Ackland says Dr Dimitroulis came to the Biomedical Engineering with a new design that addressed several issues related to the only ‘off-the-shelf’ prosthetic replacement available in Australia. These included the small range of sizes available and the potential for nerve damage that can cause loss of sensation to parts of the patient’s face.

The new prosthetic temporomandibular joint design has a titanium condyle with a ball that fits into a high-density polyethylene socket. The titanium provides additional strength while being highly biocompatible, Dr Ackland says. Using 3D printing, the design can also be customised to the anatomy of individual patients.

Extensive musculoskeletal testing was undertaken including computer simulations to ensure the joint implant and screws would withstand the forces the prosthetic joint would be subjected to during eating.

The first surgeries with the new joints have all provided good clinical outcomes, with reduced pain and improved biomechanical movement for patients.

Dr Ackland says this has given Dr Dimitroulis the confidence to establish a new business, OMX Solutions, to manufacture prosthetic joints for Australian and international clients. Prosthetic jaw joints will be produced in Australia in a range of standard sizes and will also be available in customised 3D printed designs.

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