A Brief History of Dental Implants By Thomas G. Zarger Jr., D.D.S. on October 09, 2017

Illustration of dental implant and two molarsIt is no secret that dental implants are widely considered the most superior teeth replacement option available in modern dentistry. But many people are surprised to learn that the history of dental implants dates back thousands of years. Contemporary titanium implants - like the ones Dr. Thomas G. Zarger places in our Knoxville, TN patients - are the result of centuries of trial and error. Thanks to our ancestors’ commitments to the evolution of dental care, today’s modern implants tout a 97 percent success rate.

Ancient Methods for Teeth Replacement

Examples of teeth replacement have been discovered all over the ancient world. Some civilizations filled in gaps between their loved ones’ teeth after death, while some cultures actually replaced teeth in living people.

  • Currently, the earliest known efforts in dental implantology occurred about 4,000 years ago in China, where bamboo pegs were intricately carved and used to replace missing teeth.
  • Approximately 3,000 years ago, a copper peg was used to replace a missing tooth in an Egyptian king. It is unclear whether or not the peg was placed in life or in death. However, it is the first recorded case of using metal to replace a tooth.
  • In a French burial site, a 2,300-year-old iron tooth was uncovered among natural teeth. Researchers agree this artificial tooth was most likely placed post-death.
  • Approximately 2,000 years ago, people often attempted to replace their missing teeth with other natural teeth, obtained from either another person or an animal. This was not successful, due to the amount of infection that would undoubtedly develop.
  • Mayan civilizations in existence around 1,350 years ago replaced missing teeth with a variety of materials, including seashells, wood, stones, and jewels. A jawbone found by archeologists in Honduras includes three carved shells. What is most fascinating about this discovery is that the bone around the shells exhibited signs of regeneration, suggesting that future efforts in dental implantology would not be in vain.

18th and 19th Century Developments in Dentistry

Discoveries throughout the 1700s and 1800s were crucial to modern dentistry. Researchers began to test the success of metal alloy and gold implants. Despite their best efforts, these implants did not yield long-term results. Because the human body tends to reject foreign objects, researchers began to understand that if a metal was to be used in successfully crafting an implant, it had not yet been discovered.

20th Century Dental Advancements

In order for an implant to be successful long-term, it must undergo a process called osseointegration. This occurs when the jawbone fuses to the implant. In the early 1900s, osseointegration had not yet been successful in dental implants. However, in 1952, an orthopedic surgeon named Dr. Per-Ingvar Brånemark discovered it by happenstance. While researching regeneration and healing in rabbits, the surgeon realized that titanium rods inserted into the femurs to promote healing actually fused directly to the bone tissue. This was a concept that would be applied to dental implants within the next two decades.

In 1965, Dr. Brånemark placed the first titanium dental implant in a live volunteer patient. Through a two-stage surgical technique, the implant successfully integrated in six months, and lasted for another 40 years! Thus, the modern dental implant was born.

Modern Implant Dentistry

Since Dr. Brånemark’s astonishing discovery, further advances have been made. Today, a variety of implant shapes and sizes are available. Additionally, surgical techniques have evolved to successfully increase stability and improve patient recovery.

Schedule a Consultation

If you are missing teeth, dental implants could be the optimal treatment solution for you. To schedule a visit with Dr. Zarger, call our office at (865) 693-7631 or contact us online anytime.

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Dr. Thomas G. Zarger, Jr., DDS Family Dentistry in Knoxville

Our practice has provided skilled and compassionate dentistry for patients in the Knoxville, TN, community for over 30 years. Dr. Zarger is a member of:

  • American Dental Association
  • Second District Dental Society
  • Tennessee Dental Association
  • American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry

We strive to make care convenient and affordable to all patients and accept CareCredit financing to help reduce the cost of treatment. Schedule your consultation today online, or by calling (865) 693-7631.

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