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The History of Dental Implants

Dental implants have been a part of our lives for much longer than anyone realizes, which is why many find the history of dental implants somewhat surprising. Today, continual advancements in medical and dental technology have made it so that almost anyone can undergo dental implantation to replace broken, damaged, decayed and missing teeth, however this was not always the case. Still, dental implantation is a practice that has been helping people improve their smile for generations.

The earliest records of dental implants date back over 1300 years ago to the Mayan civilization. History shows that the Mayan’s used pieces of shells to replace missing teeth, a practice that was actually quite resourceful seeing as the calcium in the shells allowed the shells to bond with the jawbone, thus stabilizing them for practical use. While implantation methods and the materials used have changed drastically since then, the goal still remains the same—to restore the use of one’s teeth.

Over the years, many other materials and methods have been used to replace missing teeth, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that an accidental discovery led to the development of modern day implants.

Swedish Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Per-Invgar Branemark was conducting bone-healing research when he stumbled upon a stunning breakthrough in dental implantation. During routine research, due to the high cost of titanium, he decided to recycle a section of tubing that had been placed in the bone of a rabbit. When he attempted to remove the tubing, he found that he couldn’t. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the rabbit’s bone had fused with the titanium tubing; the bone had grown around the tubing, thus securing it.

This accidental discovery led to further tests in which Branemark concluded that bone did indeed bond with titanium. He termed this process 'osseointegration', which refers to the structural and functional connection between living bone and an artificial implant.

Once this process was fully realized, the first titanium implant screw was developed, and was implanted in 1952. Overall, Branemark’s accidental discovery led to an incredible breakthrough in cosmetic dentistry—dental implantation has become of the most popular cosmetic dental procedures that patients undergo today.

As for the future of dental implants? The latest development in dental implant technology can be found in mini dental implants. This implant is significantly smaller in size, which has allowed more patients to experience successful results.