HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — The first thing you notice about Richard Buehning is his salt-and-pepper beard.
Shaggy and thick, it covers his mouth — and his lack of teeth. For the better part of two decades, that toothless grin has been a source of shame for the Texas prisoner. It made eating hard, and smiling awkward, until he grew a bush of hair to cover it up.
Now, he can finally shave it all off. Last month, the 63-year-old became one of the first prisoners to get 3D-printed teeth. Seven months after the Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced plans to launch a start-of-the-art denture clinic in response to a Houston Chronicle investigation, inmates from across the system are starting to get some of the first sets of 3D-printed teeth ever made inside a U.S. prison.
“With dentures there is esteem, and the mission of TDCJ is to rehabilitate the overall person,” prison dentist Dr. Chad Taylor told the newspaper. “It’s tough to go around without teeth.“
So far, the new machines installed at the Goree Unit in Huntsville have printed just under a dozen dentures with plans to make a few hundred more in the coming months.