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A Brief History of Dental Implants: Treating Tooth Loss

By Bruce Wilderman on September 29, 2017

An implant-supported dental crownIf you're missing a tooth or multiple teeth, a bridge or a denture is a great option to consider. While traditional bridges and dentures are effective, many people have been turning to appliances supported by dental implants, which are artificial tooth roots surgically anchored into the jawbone. Countless patients in the Philadelphia area have come to Artistic Expressions Dentistry to inquire about dental implants and if they're ideal for them.

While dental implants seem like a 21st century innovation, they really date back to ancient times. Let's give a brief history of dental implants so you can understand and appreciate the field of dentistry has come over many thousands of years.

Ancient Forms of Dental Implants

Some of the earliest forms of dental implants date back thousands of years. Here's a brief rundown of those ancient dental implants:

  • 4,000 Years Ago – In China, people would use carved bamboo pegs in order to fill in the spaces left behind by missing teeth.
  • 3,000 Years Ago – Likely done after his death, an Egyptian king had a copper peg hammered into his upper jawbone to replace a missing tooth.
  • 2,300 Years Ago – An iron false tooth was hammered into the jaw of a corpse interred at a Celtic grave in France. It's also assumed that the iron false tooth was placed after death.

Mayans and Dental Implants

The first properly functioning precursors to dental implants date back to around 600 AD in Honduras, though it was not uncovered until 1931 by archaeologists. A Mayan woman had three missing teeth replaced by pieces of shell. Her jawbone grew around these pieces of shell to support them, meaning that these false teeth were functional rather than just cosmetic.

Dental Implants of the Early 20th Century

Dental implant technology as we know it essentially developed over the last 100 years. In 1913, a technique known as the Greenfield implant system was developed, involving an iridioplatinum implant capped by a gold crown. These implants lasted a few years thanks to some bone growth around the implants.

In 1940, Bothe, Beaton, and Davenport did early experiments with titanium as an implantable material. Noting the bone grown around the titanium, they described an important process that would be defined and refined by the mid-20th century when the dental implant as we know it came into being.

The Early 1950s: Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark and Osseointegration

Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark, a Swedish orthopedic surgeon, is the key figure in the development of the modern dental implant. While conducting research on rabbits with titanium chambers implanted in them, Dr. Branemark found it difficult to remove these chambers. Bone had grown around the chambers as if it was natural hard tissue in the body, fusing with this metal.

Dr. Branemark referred to this fusion of titanium and bone as osseointegration. This was the key component to making successful dental implants, though additional research would need to be carried out to ensure the process would work.

1965: The First Modern Dental Implant Is Placed

In 1965, Dr. Branemark placed the first titanium dental implant in a living patient. The patient in question was a Swedish volunteer named Gosta Larrson. Dr. Branemark would continue to publish studies and engage in research with regard to titanium dental implants over the course of the next 14 years. He would eventually partner with another company to develop and market dental implants of his own. It's estimated that more than 7 million Branemark System dental implants have been placed over the years.

Learn More About Dental Implants

To learn more about dental implants and other key innovations in dental care treatment, be sure to contact our advanced dental care center today. The team at Artistic Expressions Dentistry will help you have a beautiful smile and experience the benefits of improved dental health.

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