Maxillofacial prosthetics are used to replace structures of the head and neck that have been affected by congenital (birth) defects, trauma, or cancer. When surgical reconstruction has reached its limits, or when surgery is not possible, prosthetic materials can be used to rebuild lost facial structures to improve cosmetics, speech, chewing function, and ultimately, quality of life. Here are a few examples of the most common types of maxillofacial prosthetics:
An obturator is used to replace the hard palate on a patient that has had cancer of the upper jaw. The treatment of this particular type of cancer often results in a hole between the nasal cavity, maxillary sinus, and mouth. Speaking, eating, and drinking are all compromised in this situation, so the obturator is used to seal off the hole, with the goal of improving speech sounds and preventing food from passing between these areas.
An artificial ear can be fabricated from a silicone-based material and attached to the patient for cosmetic purposes. They are attached through the use of adhesive or craniofacial implants, which allow the ear to be clipped into place. Patients with certain types of congenital anomalies or those who have suffered burns to the head are two groups who may benefit from an artificial ear.
An artificial nose is similar to an artificial ear in the material and attachment methods, but is more commonly used for patients who have suffered serious trauma to the midface.
There are a number of other prosthetic devices available, but equally important aspects of maxillofacial prosthetics include providing guidance and comfort during a challenging time. For example, patients undergoing treatment for cancer of the jaws will likely need radiation therapy, resulting in sensitive gum tissues and decreased jaw movement. Dr. Limmer can prescribe medications that will help manage gum soreness during the course of radiation and also work with patients to improve jaw mobility through specific exercises afterward.
Maxillofacial prosthetics is an important part of prosthodontics and Dr. Limmer works to ensure the highest level of care for this patient population.