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The History Of Dental Implants and How They’ve Evolved

Today’s modern dental implant designs are considered the #1 option when you need to replace missing teeth anywhere in your smile. A typical titanium dental implant is more durable than natural teeth and integrates with your bone tissue, similar to an anatomical tooth root. But understanding the history of dental implants can help you feel confident in your treatment choices and truly understand how far dental implants have come over the past several centuries. That’s right…centuries. 

The First Dental Implants

Very early implants were not like a typical false tooth you would see today. But thousands of years ago, people still came up with unique ways to replace lost teeth. Everyday objects were used instead of lifelike artificial teeth, such as carved bamboo pegs, seashells, or even actual human teeth from a compensated donor or cadaver. Unfortunately, the history of dental implants has some not-so-great moments too, such as stealing teeth from graves and selling them on the black market. Although these solutions didn’t permanently reverse tooth loss, they were the modern dental implants of their time.

We know that civilizations such as the ancient civilizations such as the Mayans and Egyptians all had early implants that were used for tooth replacement. Archeology also shows us that some early civilizations used carved ivory and gold ligature wire to restore natural teeth. Usually, you would find these types of prosthetics or dental implants in people who were a bit well off or well-to-do, such as an Egyptian king or other prominent individuals. 

Ancient The Maya mandible with shell implants – Image Source – NCBI Fig. 4
Original radiograph of the three “immediate load” shell implants – Image Source – NCBI Fig. 7

Dental Implants In The Early 20th Century

In the 1930s and 1940s, doctors began to use orthopedic screws for the specific purpose of anchoring false teeth. Unfortunately, many of these earlier stage implants (endosseous implant designs) required extremely invasive procedures and lengthy surgery to perform. Usually, it consisted of some type of a blade implant that was firmly embedded inside or over the jaw bone. 

Over the next few decades, dentists and researchers began experimenting with dental implant designs and how they affected bone tissues around them. In the last half-decade alone, dental implants have significantly evolved into lifelike false teeth that outperform and outlast even healthy, real teeth. By the turn of the 20th century, biocompatible metal like titanium and other implant designs were completely transforming treatment options for partially edentulous patients. 

Discovery of Dental Implant Materials

In the early 1950s, a researcher named Dr. Branemark performed experiments on rabbits, examining how well specific materials integrated with bone tissue. What he found was that bone healing was so predictable that the titanium implant components completely fused with the bone tissue where they were installed. This discovery opened up a plethora of opportunities for surgeons and denture wearers. 

Today’s implants act like an artificial root that can predictably support individual dental crowns (for a single missing tooth), multi-tooth fixed bridge appliances, or even full arch appliances that eliminate the need for removable dentures. Once the implant surface integrates with the bone around it, it’s like having completely new teeth. As an added plus, bone loss and saggy facial tissues can be delayed because of how dental implants help support the natural tissues around them. 

How Long Have Dentists Been Doing Dental Implants?

Dr. Branemark placed his first dental implant in 1965. Just like today’s implants, it took about six months for the titanium alloy to integrate with the living bone around it. But, surprisingly, it lasted four decades! Since then, hundreds of thousands and thousands of dental implants have been placed in patients worldwide. 

Compared to other routine dental treatments, a modern dental implant is considerably more predictable and offers the highest success rate. Generally speaking, someone getting dental implants in their upper or lower jaw can expect about a 98-99% success rate from their investment. In addition, surgical guides and 3D imaging further enhance the predictability and success of dental implant treatment. 

Choosing a dentist who is specifically trained in placing dental implants will ensure the best success possible. And when you’re committed to treating your dental implants like natural teeth—including brushing and flossing them daily and scheduling regular checkups—each dental implant has the potential of lasting the rest of your life. There’s no better way to replace your missing teeth. 

Big Advantages of Modern Dental Implants

Although the history of dental implants has some colorful examples sprinkled throughout the past thousands of years, the development of the first titanium dental implant transformed dentistry altogether. No longer are we using seashells, bones, gold ligature wire, or transplanted teeth to restore people’s smiles. Instead, we’re making a minimally-invasive circular incision and installing a dental implant that functions like human teeth in nearly every way possible. Understanding bone growth and integration —and the brief history of how implant designs have transformed in relation to bone turnover—means it’s safe to install biocompatible metal devices into your lower or upper jaw.

Oftentimes it takes decades or centuries to figure out new ways of restoring broken or missing teeth. But in regard to the history of dental implants, it literally took thousands and thousands of years to perfect them. 

Today, there’s no better way to replace missing teeth than using dental implants. Modern implant development is safe and effective for adults of all ages, regardless of how “old” a person may be. While there are still some medical clearances to meet, as long as we can ensure that you are physically healthy and have adequate blood flow to the area, you can say goodbye to wearing removable false teeth.

Full Arch All On 6 Dental Implants Before and After

Are Dental Implants Right for Me?

The history of dental implants has come a long way. If you have missing teeth, dental implants are likely the best option available for restoring your smile (regardless of how many missing teeth you have.) 

Today’s dental implants are safe, gentle to install, predictable, and offer the best return on investment when it comes to your oral health. 

Are you looking for dental implants in Leawood, Overland Park, KS, or Kansas City, MO? Then, visit Gordon Dental for quality dental implant treatment that fits your lifestyle. Contact us now to request your first appointment.