The History of Dental Implants
Dental implant history dates back further than you may have guessed. The first dental implant is believed to have been used more than 1,300 years ago by the ancient Mayans. They used sea shells to replace missing teeth in order to restore a woman's beautiful smile. Archaeological evidence also shows ancient Egyptians used sea shells and ivory to replace missing teeth.
The path leading to modern dental implants started in 1951 with a chance discovery by Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark, a Swedish researcher and physician. Branemark had screwed a titanium cylinder into a thigh bone during an animal study with the intent of testing blood flow's affect on healing rate. After the study was complete, he noticed that the bone had actually fused to the titanium cylinder without long-term soft tissue inflammation, which contradicted the scientific theory of the time. He called this process of bone and titanium fusing osseointegration.
Dr. Branemark quickly realized the broad implications of his discovery and began focusing on how it could help humans. During this research, he found that titanium - under carefully controlled conditions - could be structurally integrated into the jawbone and used as anchors (behaving similar to natural teeth roots) for artificial teeth. In the mid-1960s, Branemark performed his first dental implant surgery using the process of osseointegration he had researched since its unexpected discovery. However, Branemark's findings were not well received until the 1980s.
Branemark's research and methods are the foundation of dental implant procedures today. The system developed by Dr. Branemark is still being used, but there are several different types of dental implant systems that have been developed to treat missing teeth.