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The Origins of Dental Implants

The human tooth transplant has been in the imagination for centuries. There is even evidence that the Ancient Chinese were attempting this 4,000 years ago. The idea of an implant is different from that of dentures, as the implant stays in the mouth permanently. The big problem was finding a material that the body would not reject. The 18th and 19th Centuries saw some gruesome tales of drunk paupers selling their healthy teeth to a primitive doctor who would yank them out with the roots still intact. These doctors would attempt to affix them in the mouths of wealthy patients only to find the gums would become infected and the tooth would fall out. Flash forward to the early 20th Century when a Dr. Greenfield got the idea to encase the composite tooth material into a crib or basket as an artificial root to insert it into the gums. By using titanium, later scientists were able to understand how the bone grows around the titanium.

dental implant screwsAs researchers in Europe began to notice the effects of titanium in relation to bone healing and blood flow they were able to understand that the body actually accepted the new material. This was huge as the attempts to implant dental screws before this had resulted in the body pushing the implanted material out or causing it to become infected. Orthopedic surgeons attempted to insert titanium rods into bones for repair but because the mouth contains an easy access to living bones without the need to cut, and the population at the time had a lot of missing teeth, it was an obvious choice to test out titanium screws in the field of dentistry.

Dr.  Per-Ingvar Branemark receives the credit for the first successful titanium screw dental implant and is considered the father of modern dental implantology. By drilling into the area of the jaw where a tooth is missing, he could insert a titanium alloy screw. After a few weeks, the jaw would heal around the screw without infection. Because one of the main factors of evolution requires species to eat in order to live, the gums are one of the fastest healing regions in the body. The screw essentially becomes the new root that connects the artificial tooth to the jaw. Once the screw and gum region has healed, an artificial tooth can be affixed atop the screw.

These new dental implants had a huge success rate and last longer in the patient’s mouth than most crowns. Today, commercial dental implant screws are made of a minimum 85% titanium or alloy thereof. If the artificial tooth happens to break, the patient can have that part of the implant replaced with a lot more ease than the original implant took. The screw should remain in the patient for life.

Dr Leonard Linkow was also an early pioneer in dental implants and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1969 for his work in dental implants, thus making him the only dentist to be nominated in the field of medicine.  He remained active in the teaching community until his death in 2017 at the age of 90. Today dental implants are a standard practice for patients missing teeth.

If you need a dentist in the San Diego area for your dental implants then you should give Dr McBrides office a call today!  We are here to help!


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