Smiles For Life

History of Dental Implants

By Joe McIntyre, DDS on December 26, 2019

Implant-supported dental crownThanks to dental implants, people who are missing a tooth or all of their teeth can experience the benefits of a healthy smile. These artificial tooth roots can support dentures, bridges, and individual crowns. Dr. Joe McIntyre, Dr. Dan Whiting, Dr. Kelsey Rockey, and Dr. Bryant Ash have helped numerous patients in the Harrisonburg, VA area thanks to dental implants.

The team at Smiles For Life would like to look back at the history of implant dentistry. This will help you understand how people have tried to treat tooth loss throughout time, and how 20th century innovation and experimentation paved the way for modern implant dentistry.

Early Dental Implants During Ancient Times

Prior to the creation of dental implants we know today, there are a few ancient attempts at tooth replacement that are worth noting. They reveal the desire to replace missing teeth dating back to the civilizations of our distant ancestors:

  • 2000 BC: In China, missing teeth were sometimes replaced with carved bamboo pegs.
  • 1000 BC: Archaeologists discovered an Egyptian king with copper pegs hammered into his jawbone as a method of tooth replacement. These pegs may have been placed after death.
  • 100 BC: All over the world, there are various recorded attempts at tooth replacement using animal teeth or teeth from other humans.
  • 600 AD: The Mayans crafted seashells into false teeth.
  • 800 AD: The Mayan/Honduran cultures used stone to create replacement teeth.

Early Attempts at Proper Dental Implants

The dental implants we offer in Harrisonburg today have their roots in 20th century dental care innovations.

Dr. E.J. Greenfield created an artificial tooth root from platinum and gold in 1913. This early ancestor of the dental implant did not remain fused to the surrounding jawbone structure. Another early attempt at dental implants was created by Drs. Alvin and Moses Strock. They used a chromium-cobalt alloy known as Vitallium to create their artificial tooth roots, but the material was also rejected by the jawbone.

The 1950s: A Leap Forward with Titanium

The problem of jawbone fusion was solved in the 1950s thanks to orthopedic surgeon Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark.

Dr. Branemark was conducting research on rabbits that previously had a small titanium cylinder placed near their femurs. Dr. Branemark had difficulty removing these titanium cylinders because they had fused with the bone rather than remaining separate or being rejected outright.

Dr. Branemark called the fusion of titanium and bone “osseointegration.” This process of osseointegration became the key to dental implant effectiveness.

1965: The First Dental Implant

Dr. Branemark continued his research and experimentation with osseointegration for several years. This eventually led him to place the first dental implant in a human patient in the mid-1960s. That’s right: dental implants are about 55 years old.

The success of Dr. Branemark’s work led to more dental implants being placed in the 1970s, with growing popularity in each subsequent decade.

Contemporary Implant Dentistry

Today’s implant dentistry is still indebted to Dr. Branemark’s work as well as the pioneering work of dentists in the past. Refinements have been made in technique and the shape of the implants. Modern diagnostics and digital imaging technology have improved our ability to plan dental implant treatments and implement them with as few risks of complications as possible.

Speak with Our Skilled Team of Dentists

If you live in the Harrisonburg area and want more information about implant dentistry and why it may be ideal for you, be sure to contact our skilled cosmetic and restorative dentists. The team at Smiles For Life can be reached in Bridgewater by phone at (540) 208-5911 and in Staunton by phone at (540) 887-3304.

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