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What are the Different Kinds of Prosthetic Noses?

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  • Written By: Terrie Brockmann
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2016
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When people hear the term "prosthetic noses," they typically think of clown costumes and other entertainment applications. While there are many reasons for people to wear amusement-related prosthetic noses, there are numerous medical situations in which a person needs a prosthetic nose. Rhinectomy is the surgical removal of a person's nose and people often acquire a prosthetic nose after surgery. Whereas people wear the amusement-related noses to attract attention, experts design the medical prosthetic noses realistically because the nose is a prominent facial feature.

Most fun, entertaining noses are clown noses, but there are other types, including alien costume noses. Many companies offer full noses and nose tips for amateur use, including noses held on the wearer's face with an elastic string. Noses that are more complex use adhesives to attach the apparatus. Manufacturers mold entertainment-related noses from latex or non-latex based foam or plastic. Some clown noses have plastic squeakers or lights inserted as an extra feature.

A person may need a prosthetic nose due to a birth defect, an accident, or a disease, such as cancer. Historically, there is evidence that people used papier-mache, clay, and even wood to fashion replacements. In the mid-1950s, medical school instructors taught students how to make prosthesis from silicone. Through continuous improvement, Medical Art Prosthetics (MAP) anaplastologists and other prosthesis specialists developed sophisticated prosthetic noses that are almost life-like in appearance.

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People attach medical prosthetic noses using one of two methods. Special adhesives can attach noses and nose parts. Surgical adhesives need special adhesive removers and a person needs to follow the manufacturer's instructions to prevent skin damage. A newer method uses magnets and titanium implants.

A maxillofacial surgeon inserts the titanium implants into the facial bones. The prosthesis maker molds magnets into the silicone prosthesis. The surgeon uses a template to ensure that the magnets and the titanium inserts align perfectly. Magnets help the prosthetic noses fit better and more securely than ones held by glue alone.

Creating a prosthetic device may be a lengthy process. Sometimes the anaplastologist takes a wax casting of a person's nose before a maxillofacial surgeon removes it. Other times he or she uses photographs to sculpt a nose out of wax and makes a mold from the sculpture. The anaplastologist pours silicone into the mold and heat cures it. When the curing is complete, an artist hand paints the prosthetic nose with freckles, blood vessels, and other characteristics that are unique to the patient.

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