Above left: Computer assisted design of a fossa and condyl prosthesis. This is being created to fit a virtual three-dimensional model of the patient’s skull. Right: Photograph during surgery for a fossa and condyl replacement the implant is just visible below the patient’s ear.
Designing and implanting prostheses requires a great deal of skill. In the development of routine bespoke engineering of maxillofacial implants, researchers at Sheffield are combining the skills of the dental technologist with industrial Computer Aided Design and Manufacture (CAD/CAM) technology. This allows us to manufacture complex bespoke implants for delicate facial reconstruction with a high degree of accuracy.
CAD/CAM is also essential for controlled milling of tooth restorations from hard, refractory ceramics. Scientists at Sheffield are studying the limitations of these fabrication techniques, and developing guidelines for best dental practice. Having created the ceramic restoration it must be fixed firmly in place. A combination of mechanical strength tests and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is being used to obtain a thorough understanding of bonding failure. Further fundamental studies are underway into the nature of the bonding interfaces, and how these are changed during processing.
Protective equipment can also be improved by careful consideration of materials design. For example, a mouthguard protects the teeth from chipping during contact sports. More importantly, however, by cushioning blows to the jaw, so shock is not directly transmitted to the palate and brain of the sportsperson, a good mouthguard also protects against concussion and brain damage. Optimal performance in mouthguards is provided by a complex combination of mechanical properties, which must be carefully preserved through the manufacturing process.
More information on dental materials, custom prosthetics and maxillofacial implants is provided on the Biomaterials Research Group website (part of the School of Clinical Dentistry).