UC San Diego Health and Navy Perform Reconstructive Jaw Surgery using 3D Printed Teeth
With part of his leg bone serving as his new jaw, UC San Diego student walks across commencement stage two weeks after surgery and accomplishes his professional dream
Felix Ung entered UC San Diego as an undergrad four years ago with a dream of attending law school after completing his degree in Cognitive Science. Through hard work and determination, Ung was accepted to New York University School of Law during his senior year.
Around this time, however, Ung got disturbing news that would have him questioning his future as an attorney. He had been diagnosed with a cyst that had already destroyed a large portion of his lower jaw. After numerous referrals and appointments, it was determined Ung needed to have two-thirds of his lower jaw removed, including nearly all of his lower teeth — a procedure that would require rare expertise and a ground-breaking dental implant restoration using 3D-printed teeth.
With his professional dream uncertain, Ung searched for and found a collaborative team of specialized plastic and dental surgeons at UC San Diego Health and Naval Medical Center San Diego. The team was led by U.S. Navy Commander Dan Hammer, DDS, Navy maxillofacial surgeon and Captain Eamon O'Reilly, MD, Navy plastic surgeon and Christopher Reid, MD, associate professor of surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine and plastic surgeon at UC San Diego Health.
In a series of complex procedures, the team partnered with the Department of Otolaryngology at UC San Diego School of Medicine to both remove a large portion of Ung’s jaw and transplant — during the same surgery — a portion of Ung’s leg bone to serve as his new jaw, complete with dental implants and 3D printed teeth.
“This procedure is an example of UC San Diego Health’s commitment to providing leading-edge, comprehensive care that encompasses both functional and aesthetic aspects,” said Reid. “This innovative approach ensures the patient's swift recovery and an improved quality of life.”
Hammer notes that, with no need for additional surgeries, the procedure reduces the surgical time a patient is under anesthesia while also immediately restoring the patient's form and function.
“In a moment of despair for Felix, there was a new sense of hope that his diagnosis would not forever derail his dream of a career as an attorney,” said Hammer.
By utilizing advanced digital dental technologies, including intra-oral scanning, computer aided design software and 3-D printing, Ung had restored function and was discharged home in less than a week.
“Most impressive was Ung walking across the stage at commencement two weeks after surgery with his new jaw and accompanying smile,” said Reid.
This multifaceted procedure, the first of its kind at UC San Diego Health, has enabled Ung to accept a deferred enrollment to NYU School of Law, where he will matriculate this winter.
Hammer added that patients who lack access to these technologies typically require a years-long recovery to experience the same outcomes, with many additional surgeries.
“This procedure is done very rarely in the United States or across the world,” he added. “There are very few locations in California that have extensive experience with this technique and a handful in the entire nation. Prior to this case, Naval Medical Center San Diego was the only site in San Diego County that had this capability."
To learn more about plastic and reconstructive surgery at UC San Diego Health, visit health.ucsd.edu/plastic-reconstructive-surgery.
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