History of Dental Implants

Dental Implants in Ancient History
The earliest endosseus dental implants (implants that are embedded into the jaw bone) in ancient history are thought to be used by the Mayan civilisation, in the year 600 AD. Archaeologists found a piece of a jaw bone that was believed to belong to a young woman; this jaw bone had three shells that were shaped to resemble teeth, and were embedded into places where three lower incisor teeth were missing.

For forty years after this discovery of the Mayan lady’s implants, archaeologists believed that these dental implants were placed after the person’s death. However, a series of radiographs taken in 1970 by Professor Amadeo Bobbio showed that there was compact bone formation around the two of the implants – leading to the conclusion that the implants were actually embedded into the jaw bone when the Mayan lady was still alive.

Egyptian artifacts also show that seashells and ivory were used to replace missing natural teeth. The pieces of ivory and seashells were formed to resemble the shape of natural teeth, and were then hammered directly into the gums were lost teeth used to be located.

Modern Dental Implantology
In 1952, a Swedish orthopaedic surgeon named Per-Ingvar Brånemark studied about bone regeneration and bone healing, and discovered something that would revolutionise the modern dental implants treatment. In one of his experiments, Professor Brånemark used a titanium metal cylinder to study even further the microscopic healing properties of the bones; this cylinder was screwed into an animal test subject’s thigh bone. The completion of this experiment, it was discovered that the titanium cylinder was fused irreversibly with the thigh bone; this process was then named “ossointegration” (the adherence or fusion of titanium with bone), and was further studied because of its significant potential in helping humans.

Professor Brånemark, now known as the “father of modern dental implantology”, initially planned to work on ossointegration in knee and hip surgeries; however, he finally decided on using titanium on the mouth as this area was more accessible and the huge number of people who have missing teeth offered more subjects for more widespread studies. In 1965, Brånemark placed his first dental implant (made with titanium) into a human volunteer.

In 1981, Professor Brånemark published a comprehensive paper which covered all of the data he successfully gathered about dental implants. The next year, in 1982, the Toronto Conference on Osseointegration in Clinical Dentistry came up with the first guidelines for what is to be considered as successful dental implantology.

The 1980s was the period when commercial dental implantology experienced a significant growth in application, with ossointegration being used more widely to permanently attach individual teeth as well as dental bridges into the mouths of patients; these dental implant treatments were proven to be successful in more than 90% of the cases.