Modern dental implants are the gold standard for tooth replacement due to their durability and flawless appearance, but it hasn’t always been this way. Dental implants have come a long way over the last 4,000 years or so. Here is a brief history of dental implants and what you can expect from the modern-day variety.
Ancient Solutions for Missing Teeth
Archeologists have discovered many varieties of ancient dental implants, ranging from carved pieces of pig bone to pieces of wood. Research suggests that the Chinese carved pieces of bamboo into tooth shapes and implanted them into people’s mouths as early as 4000 years ago, and false iron teeth have been found in Celtic graves in France from 2300 years ago. Unfortunately, these early renditions of dental implants were likely laden with problems ranging from material poisoning to serious infections.
As time went on, other medical professionals experimented with implants made from actual bone, including teeth extracted from cadavers and teeth purchased from the poor. Unfortunately, even these types of implants were destined for failure, since natural tooth replacement requires proper blood flow and matching anatomical features. Also, since these early implants didn’t always fuse with the natural bone tissue, research has shown that they were likely to fall out.
Osseointegration: an Accidental Discovery
Osseointegration, which is the process by which natural bone tissue fuses with an implant, was accidentally discovered in 1952 by an orthopaedic surgeon who was studying healing and regeneration in rabbits. The surgeon was inserting titanium rods into rabbit femurs to see how the area would heal, and he realized that after a while, he couldn’t remove the rods because the titanium had fused with the bone tissue.
The Invention of Modern Dental Implants
Per-Ingvar Bränemark, the surgeon who discovered osseointegration, continued his research and installed his first dental implant in a live human volunteer in 1965. Per-Ingvar Bränemark is considered the father of modern dental implants, and many of his initial findings and techniques are still used today. For example, modern dental implants still use a titanium post because of its unique ability to osseointegrate with bone tissue. Bränemark also designed the first dental implant surgical procedure, including instructions for placing the initial posts, allowing the area to heal, and installing oral prostheses later.
Dental implant research continues to improve, and modern implants have extremely high success rates when installed by a certified Pittsburgh periodontist, a specialist who receives an extra three years learning about the intricacies of dental implant surgery. Contact the Silberg Center for Dental Science to learn more about dental implants in Pittsburgh.