Need your jaw removed? Why don't you just print out a new one?

That's what an 83 year old woman in Belgium did. Her seriously infected jaw needed to be removed, but reconstructive surgery would have been too dangerous for such an elderly patient. That's when the doctors fired up the 3D printer.

The announcement comes from researchers at Belgium's University of Hasselt, who say this represents the first time an entire lower jaw has been replaced with a printed implant. The four-hour operation was performed last June, and it took just one day for the woman to begin talking and swallowing again. Both of those compare favorable to traditional reconstructive surgery, where a patient would have to be in surgery for up to twenty hours and then remain in hospital for at least two to four weeks. The site 3Ders explains how the jaw was made:

The 3D printer prints titanium powder layer by layer, while a computer controlled laser ensures that the correct particles are fused together. Using 3D printing technology, less materials are needed and the production time is much shorter than traditional manufacturing. The mandible was finally given a bioceramic coating compatible with the patient's tissue by BioCeramics in Leiden. The artificial jaw weighs 107 grams, it is only 30 grams heavier than a natural jaw, but the patient can easily get used to it.

Printing out custom implants is a promising breakthrough, and one that could have a serious impact on medicine in general if these sorts of results hold up. Of course, if you're still not totally convinced of the awesomeness of 3D printers, I have three words for you: TARDIS cookie cutters. One way or another, these damn things are taking over the world.

Via 3Ders. Image by Zurijeta, via Shutterstock.