Exactly 50 years ago, In 1965, a Swedish physician and research professor Per-Ingvar Brånemark, after years of research and studies, placed the first titanium dental implant into a human volunteer.
Thanks to his enormous contribution to the field he was touted as the ‘father of modern dental implantology’ and his work changed lives of millions of people around the world.
What exactly is an implant? It is a piece of metal (titanium or Trabecular Metal) which is placed in a jaw to imitate the root of a missing tooth. At the end of it, there is a screw-like abutment to which a crown can be attached.
During the last fifty years not only the methods and materials used in implantology, but also our approach to dental implant has evolved. Nowadays, from the bioengineering point of view implant is the most advanced method of replacing a missing tooth, and from the patient point of view – considering its success rates and minimal aftercare required – it is the most convenient solution.
However, not only due to costs involved, but also because of people’s fear of having a ‘foreign object’ planted in their bodies, it is estimated that only 20 per cent of people with missing teeth use implants.
But, despite their wide use and popularity in modern dentistry, implants are not a modern invention at all. There is archaeological evidence that in ancient China people were using carved bamboo pegs tapped into the bone to replace missing teeth 4000 years ago. Similarly 2000 years ago ancient Egyptians have been using tooth-shaped pegs made of precious metals or ivory.
Some Egyptian mummies were also found to have transplanted human teeth! Well, it is always been the case: people with big money could afford anything.
In 1931 American explorer Wilson Popenoe and his wife were working at archeological site in Honduras, dated back to 600 AD. There they found the lower mandible of a young Mayan woman, with three missing incisors replaced by pieces of tooth-shaped. Bone growth around two of the implants indicated that they were functional as well as aesthetic.
So obviously, dental implants per se are not an invention of the XX century. But we are rather glad that precious metals replaced bamboo shoots
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