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Treliske's weird world of teeth, eyes and noses

By West Briton  |  Posted: January 31, 2013

  • The maxillofacial team at the Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske in Truro helps to improve people's lives.

  • The maxillofacial team at the Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske in Truro helps to improve people's lives.

  • Phil Brewer trims the rough edges off a plaster retainer

  • From left, the Maxillofacial Laboratory Team, advanced technologist Philip Brewer, senior technologist Shirley Prior, laboratory manager Terry Goodman and dental technologist Tracey Sobey.

  • Phil Brewer trims the rough edges off a plaster retainer.

  • The maxillofacial team at the Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske in Truro helps to improve people's lives.

  • The maxillofacial team at the Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske in Truro helps to improve people's lives.

  • The maxillofacial team at the Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske in Truro helps to improve people's lives.

  • The maxillofacial team at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Treliske in Truro helps to improve people's lives.

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TUCKED away behind an unassuming door at the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Truro is a laboratory that plays a major but unusual role in improving people's lives.

Opening the door unveils a weird world of teeth, eyes and noses tailor-made for patients who have suffered facial trauma severe enough to require the help of the maxillofacial team.

Every year the specialist department makes about 9,000 models for patients who, for example, have lost part of their face as a result of orbital and oral cancer treatments.

Philip Brewer, an advanced technologist who recently joined the trust, said many of the patients who have had oral cancers can be left with problems eating and talking.

"Some have substantial amounts of tissue removed and we can make complex devices to help them with this.

"Then there are those who have had orbital cancers and have lost an eye and sometimes half of their face.

"We live in a visual society and so we are able to make eyes and sculpture faces out of wax before conversion to silicone coloured to match their existing features. It gives them back their face and their confidence."

The department also helps improve the lives of people involved in fights, fires, accidents and sports injuries.

Mr Brewer added: "People don't understand the amount of damage done when someone is punched in the jaw.

"It often breaks the front of the jaw but it also damages the edges. It's a nasty injury and it needs splint support."

Among the more unusual items that have been created are eyelid weights which are made of gold. These are placed into the eyelid of a patient who has suffered facial nerve damage and therefore can't close their eyes.

The laboratory also makes orthodontic appliances, full and partial dentures, crowns and splints – pressure splints, worn to reduce scarring caused by ear piercings and burns, finger and toe splints for sports injuries and trauma splints for people who have suffered breaks.

They are even able to help people suffering from sleep apnoea.

Mr Brewer said: "We also make devices to stop people snoring.

"The devices can have a huge impact on their lives, not just improving the snoring problem but perhaps saving marriages.

"We help to design things that make people's lives better."

The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust One and All magazine is out now with more detail on the team's work.

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