Interesting History Behind Dental Implants

Posted on May 08, 2018 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Would you be surprised to learn that Dental Implants date back to ancient Egypt? Then, get ready for an interesting history lesson!

Archeological digs in Egypt unearthed jaw bones that had seashells or stones carved into tooth shapes positioned to replace lost teeth. The ancient Egyptians weren’t alone in this pursuit.

The Mayan civilization from 600 AD apparently used a similar process to replace missing teeth. A 1930’s excavation in Honduras uncovered a human jaw bone where shell pieces fashioned into tooth shapes were positioned into the sockets of missing teeth.

Attempts to replace teeth in ancient cultures has been discovered over the years across the globe, including North and South America, Middle Asia, and the Mediterranean. Discoveries in a number of ancient cultures have revealed early versions of dental implants, including attempts at implanting teeth made from gold and metal.

In the Middle Ages, early attempts in tooth replacement through implants were made using bone grafting techniques. Minimal success occurred due to infections, often resulting in death. Yet, the pursuit to replace teeth held in the jaw bone continued.

Successful developments were finally experienced by a World War II Army doctor, Dr. Norman Goldberg. After noting that certain metals used in other parts of the body were having consistently successful results, Dr. Goldberg started on a quest to apply this to dental implants.

After the war, Dr. Goldberg teamed with Dr. Aaron Gershkoff. Together, they created an implant type that integrated successfully with bone. Their work was the springboard to developing modern dental implant systems used today. (

Doctors Goldberg and Gershkoff shared their successes in the dental community through an article published in Dental Digest. This created enthusiasm with other doctors, who worked to fine-tune the implantation process. This also spurred efforts to develop implant designs to accommodate various needs.

When titanium was developed by NASA, Swedish surgeon Per-Ingvar Brånemark, M.D., Ph.D. found that the jaw bone would not only accept implants, it would grow around it to secure them in place. The process of ‘osseo-integration’ was an exciting new development that inspired continued research. (

Dr. Brånemark’s first titanium dental implant patient (in the mid-1960s) had four titanium implants placed, which lasted until his death four decades later. However, Dr. Brånemark spent years trying to convince the medical and dental communities that titanium would integrate with living bone. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Brånemark implants would be approved in Sweden.

At a professional meeting in Toronto in 1982, Dr. Brånemark presented his system for ‘osseointegrated’ implants. There, he finally received widespread recognition for his methods. Referred to as the father of modern dental implants, Dr. Brånemark’s dental implant system is still manufactured and on the market.

Perfection in the techniques and technology surrounding implant dentistry has continued. Patient now have a wide variety of implant systems available for individual needs. Advancements in dental materials also provide implants patients with replacement teeth that have the look and feel of natural teeth.

An estimated 450,000 dental implants are placed each year with a success rate of over 96% — higher than any other implant-in-bone procedure (including hips and knees). Patients who select dental implants for replacing teeth enjoy an exceptionally natural-looking smile as well as the function like that of ‘real’ teeth.

Dental Implants do more than merely replace missing teeth. They restore the ability to eat the foods you love without worry, laugh confidently and have a smile will last a lifetime. To discuss dental implants, call 828-274-9440 to schedule a consultation.

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