The History of Dental Implants
Dental implants are a popular tooth replacement option for adults who have experienced premature tooth loss. The best candidates for dental implants are those with healthy gums with enough bone to support and anchor the implants. And though we have heard more and more about dental implants in recent years, the history of dental implants shows they’ve been around for quite some time. Read on to learn about the exciting evolution and development of dental implants.
As far back as 2000 B.C. (over 4,000 years ago), the ancient Chinese understood that missing teeth needed to be replaced. They used rudimentary versions of dental implants to replace missing teeth by cutting bamboo into small pegs and tapping them into the jawbone. Thankfully, that’s not quite how it is done today, but the history of dental implants is quite fascinating.
Egyptians’ Use of Copper Implants
About 1,000 years later, the Egyptians began their use of copper implants. The earliest copper implants were for an Egyptian king, who had a copper peg implanted into his upper jawbone. Due to our modern understanding that Egyptians took steps to beautify their dead, it is unknown if the copper implants were added to the king’s jaw before or after his death. This is why archaeologists often find Egyptian remains accompanied by cosmetics, combs, and jewelry.
A 2,300-Year-Old Iron Implant
Fast forward to 2014: An iron tooth implant was discovered in Western Europe, believed to have been fitted over 2,300 years ago. This tooth was in the skeleton of a woman whose body was excavated in 2009. Though the body was not well preserved, the iron implant was located in place of an upper incisor tooth.
Implant Experimentation in the 18th and 19th Centuries
Early on, the primary struggle with dental implants was that the body would reject the foreign material. In the 18th century, however, researchers experimented with an alloy to create dental implants. Later, they tried silver and porcelain. One doctor even tested a porcelain implant that had a platinum disc. Though these experiments ultimately failed, they opened the door for more successful research later.
Discovery of Osseointegration
Though these findings thousands of years ago are truly fascinating, the discovery of osseointegration in 1952 paved the way for the modern dental implants we know today. Osseointegration refers to bone ingrowth into a metal implant. Over 70 years ago, researchers discovered that an artificial implant could be surgically anchored and integrated into the bone.
But the discovery wasn’t made by studying the mouth. The discovery was made as a doctor studied the blood flow in rabbits. During the study, Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark found that the rabbits’ bones had melded with the titanium chambers he’d placed. Then, in 1965, Dr. Branemark placed the first dental implant in a live patient. The patient was Gösta Larsson of Gothenburg, Sweden, who received four mandibular implants for a full-arch fixed prosthesis. The implants took six months to integrate with the bone tissue properly but lasted 40 years.
And it was then that the modern dental implant was born. Today, osseointegration can treat patients who have experienced transtibial amputations (below the knee). And doctors can perform osseointegration limb-replacement surgery on the femur, tibia, humerus, radius, and ulna, not to mention dental implants.
Titanium is now the material of choice for dental implants.
Since Dr. Branemark’s discovery, titanium has been the top choice for dental implants. The Branemark System has been transplanted on top of millions of other implants from newer companies to the tune of 7 million successful procedures.
Today, dental implants are made of high-grade titanium and securely fixed into the jawbone. A dentist or oral surgeon secures a titanium alloy screw into the patient’s jawbone, and the bone fuses to the screw during healing. Later, the dentist cements a dental crown—designed to look, feel, and function like the patient’s natural tooth—over the implant as the final restoration.
Today’s dental implants provide the following benefits to patients seeking a successful tooth replacement option:
- Long-term success rate of over 90%
- Ultra-precise titanium post placement
- Natural look and feel
- Stability and function comparable to natural teeth
- Neighboring teeth unaffected
- Missing teeth treated either individually or with a denture option
Contact Staley Dental and see why today’s dental implants are the best tooth replacement options.
If you have experienced tooth loss, you can rest assured that modern dental implants are far more successful than the bamboo, copper, and iron attempts of centuries past. Contact Staley Dental to learn more about dental implants and if they are the right tooth replacement option for you.