Believe it or not the first attempted dental implants on record are from close to 1,500 years ago. Skeletons of ancient Mayans from around 600 AD were found to have carved stones and seashells embedded in the jaws in a primitive form of dental implants. A few of these “implants” actually managed to fuse to the bone.
The groundwork for modern dental implants was laid in the 1950’s, when it was discovered that titanium could actually bond with living human bone tissue. This discovery happened totally by accident in Sweden when a researcher who had implanted titanium optic chambers onto the legs of rabbits found that he was unable to remove them due to the titanium fusing with the bone.
A new term would be coined: osseointegration. This term and process are the backbone of modern day techniques, which have an astounding 95% success rate.
Titanium Dental Implants Still the Standard Today
Titanium is still the king of dental implant materials. No other material has been found to match titanium’s ability to fuse directly with bone, its biocompatibility or its strength. Eventually, dental researchers realised that they could fabricate implants in the shape of a tooth root and they would act like a real tooth.
Currently, most major manufacturers are making what are now called “root-form” dental implants. There are some subtle differences in form, size, length and width, but all are designed to fit and function just as a normal tooth root would. They are surgically implanted into the jawbone, allowing them to support one or more teeth while retaining the integrity of the jawbone.
One of the more subtle but effective advances in dental implants in the last 40 years is the experimentation of surfaces. Originally, implants were smooth, but advances in the biology of bone fusion have shown that bones grow faster against a rougher surface. Older, smooth implants used to take up to six months to bond with the jawbone; newer “rough” implants take around six weeks.
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