How dental implants have changed over the years 

Dental implants are essentially artificial tooth roots that act as “screws,” that, when placed in your jawbone, fuse with your natural bone – called osseointegration – and serve as a base to support artificial teeth, called crowns. They are the strongest devices available to support replacement teeth – and allow you to smile, eat, talk and kiss, with a natural-looking and healthy smile.

Today, three million people in the United States have implants, a number that is growing by 500,000 annually. Today’s success rate for dental implants is close to 98%

Ancient History

While modern dental implants have been used effectively for more than 45 years, their history dates back as early as approximately 2500 BC, when Egyptians tried to stabilize teeth with ligature wire made of gold. Carved bamboo pegs were used to replace the missing teeth in ancient China in 2000 BC. An Egyptian king from approximately 1000 BC was found with a copper peg hammered into his jaw, and a French archeological expedition uncovered a Celtic grave from approximately 300 BC with an iron false tooth, but it’s believed that these were most likely attached post mortem, due the pain that would have been involved had these patients been alive during implantation.

About 500 BC, populations started getting innovative about a healthy-looking smile. The Etruscans fused gold bands from animal teeth to restore oral function in humans, and around 300 AD, the Phoenicians sculpted teeth made from ivory and used a gold wire to stabilize a fixed bridge. The Mayans are credited with the first evidence of dental implants using pieces of seashells, which when radiographed in the 1970s, showed compact bone formation around the implants, much like we see today. Around 800 AD, a stone implant was first prepared and placed in the mandible in Honduras.

Early Implants

From the 1500’s to about the 1800’s, teeth in Europe were collected from the underprivileged, cadavers or graves. They began experimenting with gold and alloys to make dental implants, but these didn’t prove successful, as they couldn’t get the replacement tooth and the bone to fuse together. Dr. John Hunter started experimenting with roosters in the 1700s by implanting a tooth into their combs, and observed that the tooth became firmly embedded in the comb of the rooster, and the blood vessels grew straight into the pulp of the tooth.

Introduction of Titanium

In 1952, it was an orthopedic surgeon’s discovery that led to the modern dental implant. During a study on bone healing and regeneration, he was able to fuse a titanium cylinder with the femur bone of a rabbit, and suggested that this procedure could be utilized in other fields, such as dental implants. Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark, a Swiss orthopedic surgeon placed the first titanium dental implant in a human volunteer in 1965, which led to today’s practice of titanium alloy screws.

When would someone need a dental implant?

Dental implants can be used to replace a single tooth, several teeth, or even a complete set, restoring function as well as esthetics. An alternative to complete or partial dentures, or a fixed dental bridge, implants have the advantage that missing teeth can be replaced without affecting or altering the adjacent teeth. Additionally, because they bond into the bone structure, implants are extremely stable, and look and feel more like one’s own natural teeth. Today, three million people in the United States have implants, a number that is growing by 500,000 annually. Today’s success rate for dental implants is close to 98%.

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Posted In: Dental Procedures