Dental implants seem like very new technology, but they’ve actually been around since ancient history. While not very successful in their early days, dental implants are now nearly 100% successful and by far the best way to replace one or more missing teeth.

The history of dental implants: a timeline

Mix of titanium dental implants

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

Dental implants have a long history. From bamboo to titanium, their evolution has been interesting to follow over the years.

Ancient history

It might surprise you to find out that dental implants have been around for thousands of years. In fact, the first “dental implant” was used in China around 600 A.D. The Chinese carved bamboo pegs, which were then fixed on the jaw and served as replacement teeth.

About 2000 years later in 1000 B.C., the Egyptians did a similar thing, but carved the pegs from precious metals and placed them in the bone. This is when the first metal implant was recorded. Archeologists have also found similar “pegs” that were made from ivory and rare gems such as jade.

2,000 years later, the Egyptians adopted a similar practice of carving precious metals and pegging them onto the jawbone. The first recorded case of a metal implant was found in an Egyptian king from 1,000 B.C. Archeologists have also found numerous skulls with artificial and transplanted teeth made from elephant ivory or rare gems like jade.

Early modern period

The problem with implants prior to modern times was their inability to integrate with the human body. Foreign elements are often rejected by the body, and dental implants were no exception. In the years from 1500-1800, European scientists tried blends of gold and other metal alloys, as well as silver and porcelain to fabricate dental implants, but to no avail.

On the darker side of history during this time, teeth were even taken from cadavers or the underprivileged and transplanted into the upper-class patients who had missing teeth.

Modern times

Dental implant experimentation carried into the 1900s. Dr. E. J. Greenfield tried using 24-karat gold in the year 1913, but still had no success. It wasn’t until two brothers, Drs. Alvin and Moses Strock, used Vitallium that we had any success with dental implants. Vitallium had been used in hip bone implants prior to being tried in dentistry. The Vitallium implants lasted much longer than previous attempts, so the Strock brothers are who history credits with the first successful dental implant placement.

A short time later, in 1952, Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark began studying the healing and regeneration of bone after placing titanium in a rabbit femur. When he went to remove the titanium, he noticed that it had fully integrated with the bone and was unable to be removed. His accidental discovery led to the modern-day dental implant.

Dr. Branemark placed his first titanium implants in one of his human patients in 1965. The procedure was a success, and he went on to publish his research. His research was not widely accepted until 1982. Once it was accepted by the scientific community, more dentists began placing dental implants in their patients.

Dr. Branemark didn’t stop there. In the 1990s, he introduced zygomatic dental implants, which could be placed into zygomatic bones. This was a beneficial advancement for patients who had significant bone loss and required dental implant placement in the zygomatic bone instead of the maxilla.

What the future brings

Three single implants in parts lower arch

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

We continue to see improvements and advancements in dental implants. New technology is constantly changing what can be done and how we plan treatment and place implants. Robot-assisted surgery is now available, as well as 3D CT scans and 3D printing. Materials that eliminate bacterial biofilms have also been used to aid in the success of dental implants. Right now, dental implants have a 97% success rate.

As the future unfolds, we will see dental implants become more affordable and be an option for patients who are not currently ideal candidates in terms of bone level and overall health. There are several technologies currently being studied that would allow for bone development and implant placement.

FAQ

Where do teeth implants come from?

Dental implants originally stemmed from treatment seen in ancient China and Egypt. Archeologists have discovered numerous skeletal remains that showed signs of objects being implanted into the jawbone to serve as teeth.

Who invented dental implants?

While the use of implant-like objects dates back thousands of years, Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark is credited with the first use of titanium as a dental implant as we know them today. He placed the first implants in a human in 1965.

When did dentists start using implants?

Even though Dr. P. Branemark placed the first titanium implant in 1965, he was ridiculed by other dentists until the early 80s, when the science research community finally accepted his research. After that, more and more dentists began using implants as a way to replace missing teeth.

How did Dr. P. Brånemark change implant history?

Dr. Branemark discovered osseointegration, which is what occurs when the titanium dental implant integrates with the bone. The two become fused together, making the implant solidly situated in the bone and able to withstand biting pressure.

References

  1. A Brief Historical Perspective on Dental Implants, Their Surface Coatings and Treatments - NCBI
  2. Titanium, a metal for surgery - NIH
  3. European Inventor Award - EPO
  4. Maxillary sinus disease: diagnosis and treatment - Nature