If, like me, when you first heard about dental implants, you presumed that it meant transplanting another person’s teeth into your gums, then you are very wrong. The implant itself is made from titanium and is placed into the jawbone in preparation for a crown to be attached, leaving an extremely secure tooth.
But how were they discovered? Well, the answer is that they were indirectly discovered by accident when a Swedish Scientist Dr. Braemark was performing experiments on rabbits using titanium rods. These were placed into the bones of the rabbits. Once the trial had finished, as titanium is a costly material, Dr. Braemark decided to retrieve the rods but was surprised to find that he couldn’t remove them.
On closer inspection, he discovered that the bone had actually physically grown around the rod and was holding it tightly in place. Having a scientific mind, he looked into this and carried out further experiments and found that this repeated itself each time. He then teamed up with medical experts who eventually led to titanium being used in medical operations and later on in dental implants. The term for the process of the bonding of bone and titanium was called osseointegration.
However, these were not the first dental implants, and rudimentary ones have been found in archaeological digs in Egypt. There is some debate, though, as to whether these were placed before death or as an afterthought to allow the person to look better in their afterlife.
Modern dental implants, though, indeed started with Dr. Braemark’s discovery and came into more common use in the 1960s. Since then, of course, technology has advanced, and these are now widely used in cosmetic dentistry to replace lost teeth. Smaller versions are sometimes used alongside standard dental implants for holding a fixed bridge in place (called an all on four) or for denture retention.
At present, a dental implant procedure is still quite expensive and can cost from one to three thousand dollars, although less so than it used to be. Still, eventually, the price will likely come down sufficiently perhaps to be used to replace dentures for all lost teeth instead of using the more uncomfortable and inconvenient dentures. This, however, is likely to be some way off yet. It is a worthwhile aim, though, as once placed, a dental implant should last for a minimum of twenty years and very often nearer thirty years provided that proper care is taken of them.