We know that tooth loss comes with a variety of problems including decreased self-confidence and difficulty eating or speaking. Although this may sound like a modern-day problem, tooth loss has been an issue for thousands of years. For as long as tooth loss has been a problem, humans have attempted to remedy it. Fortunately, now advancements in dentistry have made dental implants a hugely successful restoration option. According to scientific research, dental implants have a long-term success rate of 97%. While dental implants are the most natural-looking restoration, they have come a long way since the first primitive attempts at restoring missing teeth. To explain more on this subject, Dr. Andrew Mortensen explains the history of dental implants and how they have progressed to become the most modern tooth loss solution for his patients here in Fountain Valley, CA.
Early Attempts at Tooth Restoration
Even in early civilizations, humans appreciated a complete smile. Having a complete smile isn’t just important for aesthetics. During primitive times, it was essential to have your teeth to be able to consume food and maintain survival. When individuals experienced tooth loss, they would try to look for ways to restore their missing teeth. The earliest attempts at restoration date back to 600 AD with the Mayan civilizations. Archeologists found a seashell in the mandible of a Mayan woman in her twenties. When it was initially discovered in Honduras in 1931, researchers believed that the shell was placed post-mortem. It wasn’t until 1970 that they realized bone had grown around the shell, meaning that it must have been placed while the woman was still alive.
Other societies also attempted to restore missing teeth with a variety of different materials. In ancient China, they replaced missing teeth with carved bamboo pegs. The Egyptians also recognized the importance of having a complete smile. Egyptians hammered a copper peg into the upper jawbone of an Egyptian king 3,000 years ago to restore his smile. Most researchers believe that this was placed after death so the king would have a complete smile in the afterlife. Archeologists have recently found more evidence of early dental implants in a Celtic grave in France. They found an iron false tooth that was most likely fitted into the jaw post-mortem.
Tooth restorations weren’t just made from various materials. Some societies would even use teeth from other humans or animals. Thousand of years ago, it was common practice to buy teeth from slaves or poor people or to take teeth from animals. In most cases, trying to replace missing teeth with teeth from an animal or another person would cause an infection or cause the host to reject the foreign tooth.
The Development of Modern Implants
As time went on, attempts to replace teeth with gold and alloys continued in the 18th century. Most of these attempts failed because the body rejected these foreign materials. The most important advancement of dental implants didn’t occur until 1952 with the discovery of osseointegration. Osseointegration is the fusion of the titanium implant to the jawbone, which creates the stable feel of this restoration. This important aspect of implants was discovered by Swedish surgeon, Per-Ingvar Brånemark. Brånemark was studying bone healing and regeneration by observing a titanium cylinder he placed in a rabbit femur. Once the study had finished, Brånemark noticed that the bone had grown so close to the cylinder that it had fused together. He eventually realized that titanium is the perfect material to use for dental implants, which is where the birth of modern dental implants began.
Brånemark completed the first operation to place titanium dental implants in 1965, The patient ended up passing away from old age with her implants still perfectly in place. That’s more than 40 years with her implants giving her a beautiful, complete smile!
After the success of Brånemark’s patient, the idea of dental implants soon caught on in the dentistry community. Today, dental implants have quickly become the preferred restoration for patients dealing with tooth loss. According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, 3 million people have implants and that number is growing by 500,000 a year.
Contact our Office in Fountain Valley
As you can see, dental implants have come a long way since its primitive beginnings in ancient Mayan civilization. Dental implants today offer the most modern solution for tooth loss with natural-looking results that can last years with the proper maintenance. If you’ve experienced tooth loss, we encourage you to look into your restoration options as soon as possible. Contact our office today to schedule your one-on-one consultation with Dr. Mortensen.