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The History of Dental Implants: Innovations in Dentistry

Dr. Degel Nov 11, 2017

An implant-supported dental crownMissing teeth can have a major impact on your smile. Whether it's one tooth or many teeth that are missing, we at Astoria Dental Group can help. One great option to consider is the use of dental implants. These artificial tooth roots can support a dental crown, a bridge, or even a full set of dentures.

Dental implants have a fascinating history. While technically a century old, the lineage of dental implants goes back thousands of years. Let's offer a brief history of dental implants so you can understand the way dentists and surgeons create and innovate.

Replacement Teeth in the Ancient World

There are a few different instants of replacement teeth showing up in ancient times around the globe. Though not dental implants, they are important ancestors of note:

  • 4,000 Years Ago – In China, people would use carved bamboo pegs to fill in the spaces left behind by missing teeth.

  • 3,000 Years Ago – Likely done after death, an Egyptian king had a copper peg hammered into the upper jawbone in order to replace a missing tooth.

  • 2,300 Years Ago – An iron false tooth was hammered into the jawbone of a corpse located in a Celtic grave in France. As you might have guess, this false tooth was likely placed after death.

  • 2,000 Years Ago – In countless civilizations around the globe, people attempt using teeth from animals and other people (usually slaves) to fill spaces left by their own missing teeth.

Dental Implants in Mayan Civilization

The first functional "dental implant" comes from roughly 600 AD. Archaeologists found this evidence during a 1931 dig in Honduras. A Mayan woman had a tooth replaced with pieces of shell. Bone had fused around this shell replacement tooth, suggesting it was functional rather than purely cosmetic or decorative.

Early Dental Implants in the 20th Century

In the early 20th century, a number of people attempted to develop their own dental implants, though with limited success. In 1913, the Greenfield implant system used somewhat effective iridioplatinum implants capped by gold teeth. The implants would last a few years.

By 1940, experiments were conducted regarding the use of titanium as an implant material. The research found that bone would grow around the titanium. A major innovation, it would set the stage for a discovery about 10 years later.

The Early 1950s: The Discovery of Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark

Swedish orthopedic surgeon Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark can be considered the father of the dental implant. While conducting research on rabbits with titanium chambers placed in their bodies, he noticed that the chambers had fused with the bone tissue. The chambers were difficult to remove because the bond was so strong.

Dr. Branemark coined a term for this fusion between bone and titanium: osseointegration. This was the key that was missing all along, yet suggested by the Mayan woman's shell tooth. When osseointegration has occurred, an implant can support a restoration, allowing a person to bite and chew as if a normal tooth was in place.

1965: The First Modern Dental Implant Is Surgically Placed

After more research and refinement, Dr. Branemark put his findings into practice. This resulted in the first dental implant being placed in 1965. The brave volunteer for this revolutionary dental surgery was named Gosta Larrson.

Dr. Branemark would continue to refine and develop dental implants over the next 14 years, eventually partnering with a company to develop and market his own form of dental implants.

Learn More About Dental Implants

For more information about dental implants and how they can help you have a healthy and beautiful smile, be sure to contact our team of experienced cosmetic and restorative dentists today.

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