Virtually Rebuilding Faces

Four-million people in the U.S. have braces to straighten their teeth, but in some cases braces alone can't correct the alignment of the jaw. These patients typically have trouble eating and speaking and surgery is the best option. It's a tricky procedure that involves breaking the jaw. As Robyn Haines reports, doctors are entering a virtual world to improve accuracy and outcomes. New software uses the patient’s CT scan to create a 3-D virtual planning tool. Now, doctors can test every complex measurement, every precise cut before they go into the operating room. “It allows us as a team the orthodontist or our residents or assistants to preplan the operation, so when I go in to do the surgery, I’ve done it on the screen, and I’ve done it as many times as it takes to get it right.” It’s a 4-hour surgery, followed by three weeks with your jaw wired shut. In this story, since the patients' jaw alignment problems made it difficult to talk and eat, their surgeries were covered by insurance. If it's done for cosmetic reasons only, this procedure is generally not covered.

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