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Implants: A brief history

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Implants: A brief history

Maggie Muthama

What comes to mind when you hear the word “implants”?

Most patients may not automatically associate the word “implants” with oral health. Most patients may also not know much about the history of dental implants, and the role they have played and continue to play in restorative dental health.

What are dental implants?

Dental implants are artificial tooth roots that support the white part of teeth (crowns, bridges or dentures). Implants are made of titanium, a light but strong material. Implants are placed into your jawbone as an anchor, just like a natural tooth root, for the replacement of missing teeth . You can have a number of teeth replaced with an implant or implants, from one tooth to a complete set. Click here to read more about dental implants, and find out if they may be a good tooth loss solution for you.

The procedure may sound quite intimidating at first but read on to learn more about the history of dental implants and the resounding success dentists have had in using implants as a viable tooth loss treatment.

Did you know?

Historically humans have been attempting to replace missing teeth with implants for thousands of years. From as far back as 4,000 years ago, humans have tried to replace missing teeth using implants made from a number of materials including bamboo, ivory and precious metals. In 1931, Dorothy Popenoe, an archaeologist, discovered the remains of a Mayan woman at a site in Honduras dating back to 600 AD. The Mayan woman had three missing incisors, which had been replaced using shell shaped to resemble teeth. 

Since then significant developments have been made as far as the use of implants as a way to replace missing teeth. Bamboo, ivory and shells are no longer considered suitable materials for tooth replacement. In 1940 titanium was discovered to be an excellent material to use for dental implants, due to the way in which bone grows around titanium screws, making them a more permanent and lasting solution for replacement of teeth.

In the 1950’s, a Swedish professor named Per-Ingvar Branemark, began to explore the use of titanium as an implant material. He found that bone integrated so completely with titanium implants that the two materials could not be separated. He termed this discovery “osseointegration”.

In the mid 1960’s Branemark went on to place his first successful implants in humans. His first patient went on to live for another 40 years, with the implants placed by Branemark still in place and functioning well.

Although few scientists initially accepted osseointegration as viable treatment, by 1983 the worldwide scientific community finally began to accept Branemark’s work as not only ground breaking, but also life changing, and has been termed as revolutionary for all mankind. Today osseointegration is considered to be a highly predictable and commonplace treatment.

Click here to watch a tribute video to Branemark.

What next?

When you visit a dentist, and he/she suggests implants as a viable treatment for tooth loss you need not be afraid of the procedure now that you know more about the history of dental implants, and the way in which they have been proven to improve oral health, aesthetic appearance, as well as quality of life.

Suffering from missing teeth? Call Smile Studio today to book an appointment with our Implantologist, Dr. Paul Odera, who will be happy to discuss further tooth loss solutions with you.