Dental implants are the most successful solution for replacing missing teeth. With ever improving advances in technologies and techniques oral surgeons see as high as a 97% success rate. Dental implants are proving again and again to be a reliable solution to restore smiles, regain the ability to chew and enjoy food, prevent the loss of bone, and support surrounding teeth. However, modern dental implants didn’t simply emerge. Instead, this advanced smile-saving solution stems from a long and interesting history of extremely different materials and techniques dating back to early humankind.
Along with early humankind came the need for tooth replacement. Whether through accident or tooth decay, humans have sought to replace lost teeth over the millennia. Though modern implant technology is formally attributed to scientific discoveries after the 1950’s, archaeological discoveries proved that a wide variety of materials and techniques have been used throughout the world dating as far back as 2500 BC.
Early Human Use
- 2500 BC – The Egyptians used gold wire to stabilize loose or damaged teeth
- 500 BC – The Etruscans used carved animal bone to replace missing teeth, and the Phoenicians used gold wire to stabilize damaged teeth
- 600 AD – The Mayans used pieces of seashell as crude implants to replace missing teeth
- 800 AD – Early Honduran culture began to use stone implants placed in the mandible
Early Implants Come to Light
- 1700 AD – J. Hunter successfully transplanted a tooth from one human to another
- 1809 – J. Maggiolo performed what is considered the first dental implant placement by using a gold tube
- 1913 – J. Greenfield surgically placed gold cylinders into the jaw to function as artificial roots
The Next Steps in Implant Discovery
- 1930s – A & M Strock placed vitallium screws in humans and dogs, similar to the “post” in a modern dental implant
- 1938 – The Cylindrical Endosseous Implant is patented by PB Adams
- 1940s – The Post-type end osseous implant is developed by M. Formiggini and F. Zepponi
- 1952 – Osseointegration is discovered by Per-Ingvar Brånemark – this is the first time the implants were observed integrating into bone and the beginning of modern dental implants.
- 1960s – The Double-Helical threaded implant is developed by R. Chercheve in France
- 1965 – The first Titanium implants are used for a full-mouth rehabilitation
- 1998 – All-on-4 treatment is introduced, reducing the number of implants needed for full-arch replacement
- 2005 – The first 3D treatment planning and guided surgery is introduced
The advancement and development of modern dental implants comes from a rich historical journey. With purpose and human ingenuity, materials from gold ligature wire, shells, ivory to chromium, cobalt, to iridium and platinum were manipulated, placed, and tested throughout time to restore tooth function. And, with the diligence, willingness, and expertise of some, the current dental implant technology was born.
The Future of Dental Implants
While dental implants are currently the best choice, we are excited about advances that promise to improve the replacement of teeth in the future. As we have seen with other medical and technological advancements, we can make projections about what may happen in the years to come with dental implants, including the possibility of:
- expedited healing time
- improvement in implant success rate
- 3D printing
- reduction of procedure cost
- increased coverage by insurance companies
- more precision in treatment planning
- advancing stem cell techniques to “grow” new teeth, bone, and gum tissue
The unfortunate reality of accidents, cavities, and gum disease will continue to result in loss of teeth. Throughout history, the desire to restore smiles and the ability to eat has pushed improvement in technologies to replace lost teeth. From wire ligatures, to human tooth transplants, to successes in osseointegration, dental implants have a long history born from this desire. While important to recognize the history dental implants and how far we’ve come, our specialty continues to charge ahead to improve tooth replacement for everyone.