Long History Behind Today’s Dental Implants


Posted on Oct 13, 2015 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

If you like history, you’ll find the following information both interesting and potentially useful, especially if you ever lose a natural tooth.

Dental implants actually date back to ancient Egyptian times. Archeological digs have discovered seashells and stones that were carved into tooth shapes. These were found positioned into jaw bones to serve as replacements for missing teeth.

Over the years, metal and other dental implant versions (including gold) have been found to exist in ancient cultures in North and South America as well as Middle Asia and the Mediterranean. One exciting find occurred in Honduras during the 1930’s. An excavation revealed the Mayan civilization of 600 AD had examples of dental implants. This was determined when a fragment of a lower human jaw bone was discovered with three carved shells in tooth shapes that had been placed in the sockets of three missing teeth.

In the Middle Ages, dental implantation was performed by attempting certain grafting techniques. However, these proved minimally successful due to infections that were not uncommon, some of which resulted in deaths.

Advancements in dental implants took a major jump during World War II when Dr. Norman Goldberg was serving in the Army. Realizing that some metals had been used successfully to replace other parts of the body, he began to apply this to dental implants. After the war, he and Dr. Aaron Gershkoff created the first successful implant type in modern times, the sub-periosteal implant.

Their success became the foundation of implant dentistry, inspiring more research. In 1957, Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark, a Swedish orthopedic surgeon, discovered that living bone could grow around a new metal developed by NASA, called titanium. He found this metal would integrate successfully with bone without being rejected. This process became known as ‘osseo-integration’ and was the beginning of numerous studies.

In 1965, Dr. Branemark placed the first titanium implants in a mid-30’s patient, inserting four implants into the patient’s lower jaw. After allowing the bone to secure the implanted portions for several months, he attached a set of replacement teeth. The dental implants were fully functional for the patient for over 40 years throughout the life of the patient.

Dr. Br√•nemark’s success marked a turning point in implant dentistry with advanced techniques that are used still today. The Food & Drug Administration approved titanium dental implants in 1982. This furthered the development of fine-tuning implant systems and techniques, including computerized implant treatment planning.

In addition to the dependable function and longevity of today’s implants, modern ceramics has been incorporated into the restoration process. Teeth attached to the implants can be designed to provide the look and feel of natural teeth. Today’s Dental Implant patient can enjoy the best of all worlds!

The average age of today’s dental implant patient is 53, most who are replacing a single tooth or several. It is estimated that over 450,000 dental implants are placed every year with a success rate of 95% with minimum risks or complications.

Now that your history lesson is complete, the lingering question may be, “Why do so many people choose dental implants today?” That’s easy. Just ask someone who has had a dental implant to replace a partial, crown-&-bridge combination or full arch of dentures. Dental implants give them a lifetime solution for their missing teeth with dependable function and stability. And, their smile shows no signs of ‘false’ teeth.

If you’ve thought about dental implants, learn the type that’s best for your needs after an examination. We can then discuss recommended implant options, costs and treatment time. Call 828-274-9440 to schedule.

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