History of Dental Implants

Published on February 18, 2012 by in blog


Dental implants have been around for a lot longer than you might think. Over a thousand years ago the Maya used shell fragments which they shaped like teeth and then implanted into the jawbone to replace missing teeth. If we go back sixty years to the 1950s we can see the beginnings of dental implant technology as we know it today. Many professors, doctors, and dentists were experimenting with titanium for various different uses. Titanium has the highest strength to weight ratio of any metal, and is resistant to corrosion. In 1952 a Swedish professor named Per-Ingvar Brånemark was using optical titanium chambers to monitor live blood flow in rabbit femur bones.  When he tried to remove the expensive little pieces of titanium he discovered they would not come out. Upon closer inspection he noticed that bone tissue had surrounded and grown into every pore of the titanium, the titanium and bone had fused together without any connective or soft tissue in between. He called this phenomena osseointegration (osseo is Greek for bone and integrare is Latin for to make whole), and called the titanium piece a fixture. It took over thirty years for the scientific community to accept osseointegration as a viable means of placing artificial implants into the human body. Today this technology is used mainly for dental implants, but also for many other types of facial prosthesis placements as well as artificial joint replacements, and cranial and maxillofacial reconstruction.

The first human to ever receive a titanium dental implant was named Gösta Larsson. It was placed in 1965 and when Mr. Larsson died in 2006 the dental implant was still in place and still functional. The success rates of dental implants have improved since then as research and technology continue to advance. Today there are many types of dental implant systems available, all with success rates well above 90%.

The most common type of dental implant in use today is known as a root form (approximate length and width of a natural tooth root) endosseous (endo is Greek for in and osseous is Greek for bone) implant. Usually the dental implant is shaped like a screw; this creates more surface area for the bone to grow into and also serves as an immediate anchor. Some dental implants have been machined or treated with special coatings to create an extra porous surface which serves for a better bond with the bone tissue at a microscopic level.  It takes anywhere from three to six months for the bone to heal and grow around and ‘into’ the implant, at which point a permanent crown or other dental prosthesis such as a bridge or denture may be placed directly on top of the implant. Dental implants can remain firmly anchored and stable in the bone tissue for a life time.

Leave a Reply