The Evolution Of Dental Implants: From Seashells To Titanium Implants
Can you envision going to the dentist for dental implant surgery, knowing that you won’t have access to anaesthesia? Whilst the idea may send a chill down your spine, this was very much a reality for your ancestors.
Whilst there is nothing new in the quest to replace missing teeth, the procedures and materials used have drastically changed over the past centuries. The evolution of dental implants is undoubtedly a fascinating story, so let’s take a closer look!
Abutment Materials Used Over Time
Etruscan attempt at dental restoration. Source: Museum of Artifacts
The Oldest Known Dental Implants
Tooth replacements using dental implants are one of those miracles of modern medicine that took a little more time to come to fruition.
By “a little”, we mean 4,000 years. But why did it take so long?
Over several millennia, people experimented with a range of tooth replacement materials. But, before modern titanium dental implants, the stumbling block would always be the body’s rejection of foreign materials.
False teeth were secured with wire around 400 BC. Source: Museum of Artifacts
Dental surgery was a barbaric and often fatal practice without anaesthetics, no sense of cleanliness, or knowledge of keeping infections at bay.
Nonetheless, we had to start somewhere. Ancient China and Egypt are known to be the first to have practised tooth replacements, albeit of a questionable nature.
As early as 2500 BC, the Chinese would use bamboo pegs bound onto neighbouring teeth using gold wire to fill gaps.
Tooth replacements were common in Egypt, too. Particularly amongst noble men and women. A mummified Egyptian king was found with copper pegs hammered into his jawbone in an attempt to replace missing teeth.
Archaeologists also found skulls with dental implants made from other precious metals, rare gems and elephant ivory. Even the teeth of slaves and animals weren’t off-limits.
Remains found in Honduras in 1931 suggest that the Mayans too knew how to replace missing teeth. Archaeologists discovered a human skull dating from 600 AD.
It showed three missing teeth that were replaced by seashells. The shells were inserted into the lower jaw and showed signs of bone growth and calculus.
Dental Implants in Recent History
As the saying goes, things had to get worse before they could get better.
From 1500 on, those who could afford it bought new teeth off of the poor or turned towards the dead. You won’t be surprised to hear that attempts like these failed more often than not due to infections.
In the 1800s, dentists experimented with a range of materials, including gold, silver and porcelain. But it would take until 1886 for the first porcelain crown to be successfully mounted on a platinum disc.
A New Era For Restorative Dentistry
Dr. Per-Ingvar Brånemark of Gothenburg University, Sweden. Source: Akademiliv
The breakthrough came in 1952, more than four millennia after humans first began experimenting with dental implants to replace missing teeth.
The Swedish orthopedic surgeon and researcher, Dr Per-Ingvar Brånemark, discovered that titanium could fuse with the bone in a process called osseointegration.
In 1965, Brånemark, by then Professor of Anatomy at Gothenburg University in Sweden, placed the first titanium dental implant in a 34-year-old patient with missing teeth.
The volunteer, Swedish Gösta Larsson of Gothenburg, wore his dental implants until he died in 2006, nearly 50 years later.
Brånemark then went on to create Nobel Biocare in 1981, inspiring future generations of dentists and dental surgeons including Dr Paulo Malo and the dentists at Next Smile™.
The Role of the Dental Surgeon
Finding the right materials wasn’t the only problem that stood in the way of successful dental implant placements.
Whilst we know that Hippocrates and Aristotle wrote about dentistry, it wasn’t until the 1700s that it would become a more defined medical profession.
In 1723, the French surgeon Pierre Fauchard published the book
“The Surgeon Dentist, a Treatise on Teeth”. It was the first time the profession was defined, and a comprehensive treatment system was laid out.
Fauchard brought up the idea of using dental fillings and dental prostheses and discovered that the sugar in our diet caused tooth decay – not “tooth worms” as it was widely believed until then.
Consequently, Fauchard was credited as the Father of Modern Dentistry.
The first dental college, the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, opened in 1840, leading the way in dental practice. Two decades later, the American Dental Association (ADA) was established.
Modern Day Dental Implants
Thanks to an immense amount of research into the proper treatment, surgical procedures, and prosthetics, today’s implants have an extremely low failure rate.
With the introduction of computer technology, dental implant treatments became even more effective.
As is the case for All-on-4® with Dental Implants, now accompanied by a minimum risk and have a 98 per cent success rate.
In contrast, bridges, crowns and root canals only have an 80 per cent success rate
over ten years.
In short, dental implant surgery has become highly predictable and successful – even when a full-arch restoration is required.
Besides being a long-lasting solution, dental implants also have a range of other benefits.
Modern dental implants:
- Allow you to eat, chew and speak normally.
- Restore natural-looking, beautiful smiles.
- Prevent bone loss by stimulating the jawbone.
- Help to restore facial appearance.
If you have any questions about dental implants or All-on-4® with Dental Implants, or would like to have your personal situation assessed, do not hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team here at Next Smile™.