One-Day Jaw Reconstruction

A revolutionary procedure that removes tumors or cancers of the jaws and fully rehabilitates the patient with a new jaw, dental implants, and teeth — all in one surgery.

Not long ago, people facing comprehensive head and neck surgery as the result of a large tumor of the upper or lower jaw also faced disfigurement and the inability to eat normally again. The operation usually left them with no jaw and no teeth, and unable to eat or speak without great pain and difficulty. Restoring full function of the face and jaw — including teeth — was a long process that meant multiple additional operations that took up to 2 years to complete. 

Today, Roswell Park’s elite team accomplishes it all in one day

How it works

Our team of highly specialized surgeons — head & neck surgeons, plastic & reconstructive surgeons, and a prosthodontist — converge to carefully remove jaw tumors, reconstruct a new jaw using the bone from the patient’s lower leg, and insert dental implants and teeth during the operation. In summary, in one operation, the patient’s jaw tumor is removed and in the same setting they are given back their ability to eat and speak normally again. The process includes:

  • Cutting edge presurgical planning that involves 3D printing technology to create an accurate model of the jaw that will replace the one being removed.
  • A new jaw is created (using the 3D model as a guide) from a bone of the patient’s lower leg, the smaller, non-weight-bearing bone on the outside of the leg (fibula). For most people, removal of the lower leg bone does not affect their ability to walk and function long term.
  • Dental implants and prosthetic teeth are inserted while the bone is still receiving blood flow in the leg. This is essentially an auto-transplantation.
  • Restoration of facial sensation. Typically, removing the jaw leads to the side effect of loss of sensation to the lower lip and chin because the nerve that supplies these areas has to be removed. Roswell Park is one of only a few centers in the country able to reconstruct this nerve providing fully functional facial rehabilitation and feeling to the lips and chin.

The surgery takes from eight to 10 hours and to reduce operating time, two teams work simultaneously to remove the cancer and prepare the new jaw and teeth.

In-hospital recovery takes an average of 7 days, but most patients are able to use their new teeth soon after the surgery being able to smile again and eat again with restored confidence, returning to the way they were before they were affected by their jaw tumor or cancer. 

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Wesley Hicks Jr., MD, FACS
When afflicted with any disease the ability to bring you back to normal or near normal function is critical to any medical care.Wesley L. Hicks Jr., MD, DDS
Chair, Head & Neck / Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery
Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center