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Dental Implants History
 General Definition of Dental Implants

Basically, it is a root device, which is typically made of titanium that is used in the field of dentistry to support restorations of missing teeth. An implant may resemble a single tooth or a group of teeth and look just like natural teeth. Virtually, all dental implants that are used today fall under root-form endosseous implants. This means that they appear the same as a real root of a tooth, thus possess root-form. They are placed within the jaw bone with endo meaning the prefix, "in" in Greek and the term, osseous which refers to bone. The whole procedure is made possible through Osseointegration, a process that enables the fusion of the implant surface with that of the bone surrounding it. The success of a dental implant operation mainly depends on how well the fusion of these two elements occurs. However, the Osseointegration process may fuse the bone with the implant, but they do not contain the periodontal ligament which is in charge of giving that "feeling" when chewing. Thus, patients who have a set of teeth implanted with the root device will feel a little bit different compared to natural teeth when chewing food.

Before the advent of root-form dental implants, most of these were cumbersome in the form of blade endosseous implants which has a metal piece shaped like a flat blade placed within the bone. Or, a subperiosteal implant in which a construction of a framework is done where screws will be attached to the exposed jaw bones.

Other than acting as natural teeth, these implants can also be utilised to support a number of other dental prosthetics such as implant-supported bridges or dentures and crowns. In addition, they are also used for the purpose of anchoring the movement of orthodontic tooth. Through this procedure, the dental implants facilitate un-directional tooth movement without the need for a reciprocal action.

The Ancient Times

The history of dental implants can be traced back more than 1360 years ago through the Mayan civilization. Records from the ancient Mayans have shown that they were among the first people to use the earliest known forms of dental implants. Their method was said to be of root form or endogenous implants centuries before the popular Per Brånemark began his work on titanium for the type of implants that are to be embedded into bone in these modern times.

The great find in the history of dentistry happened at Honduras in 1931, which archaeologists, who were excavating Mayan burial sites found a fragment of mandible (beak or nose of an animal) believed to be from a woman. The mandible with Mayan origin dates as far back as around 600 AD and considered to be from a woman in her early twenties, consisted of three tooth-shaped pieces of shell that were placed in the sockets of three missing lower incisor teeth. However, the world of archaeology did not consider these findings as a form of dental implants so for forty years they considered these shells to be similar to the practices of Egyptians in which they place the shells under the nose upon death. Fortunately, a noted Brazilian dental academic, Professor Amadeo Bobbio in 1970 closely studied the mandibular specimen dug from that site. He took a series of radiographs, which enabled him to note that there is a compact bone formation around the two mandible implants. This led him to the conclusion that the implants were placed on the jaw bone during the woman's lifetime and not after death. Up to these modern days, that finding is considered to be the first recorded use of dental implants.


The Modern Dental Implants

The discovery of titanium as a viable element for dental implants was made quite accidentally. Like all "accidental discoveries" that go on to be life-changing for humanity, dental implants is now providing huge improvements in the long time quest of dentistry to replace missing teeth with a natural looking substitute. It can be said that everything began when the Cambridge University in England conducted a research on blood flow in vivo during the 1950s. The researchers devised a method where a chamber of titanium is constructed to embed the element into the ears of rabbits which are made of soft tissue.

Come 1952 and P I Brånemark, a noted Swedish orthopaedic surgeon got interested in studying the healing and regeneration of bones. He adopted the "rabbit ear chamber" from the Cambridge study to be applied in the rabbit femur. After numerous months of experimenting, he then attempted to retrieve the chambers he put on the rabbits but found out that he cannot remove them anymore. He was able to observe that the bone had closely grown in proximity with the titanium that the two are now fused effectively with each other. Naturally, he knew that these findings have a lot of potential for the medical field. It did not take him long to realize how he will be able to develop this technique and indeed, he found out that titanium screws can serve as anchors for replacement of missing teeth. So the orthopaedic surgeon made more studies to further explore this phenomenon by using both human and animal subjects. After many findings, he concluded that the unique property of titanium can indeed be applied similarly to that of dental implants and a lot of other potential applications in the medical field.

Originally, the surgeon considered that his work should center around knee and hip surgery but after thinking hard about it, he chose to experiment with the mouth first as it offers more accessibility for continued clinical observations. Moreover, applying his findings on titanium through the mouth will provide a high rate of edentulism because there will be more subjects available in the general population for widespread study. Doctor P I Brånemark then went on to name his discovery of bone adhering to titanium as "osseointegration". Finally in the year 1965, when he was then the Professor of Anatomy at Gothenburg University in Sweden, he had a human volunteer by the name of Gösta Larrson, placed with the first titanium dental implant. This proved to be a success as Larrson was able to heal and use teeth just like the real ones.

At this time, researchers came to realize that this was the only consistent material to successfully hold dental implants. Other doctors had already made studies with the idea of dental implants for years, way back before Dr. Brånemark made his discoveries. In fact, a host of other metals such as gold, silver and steel as well as human teeth that was taken from donors had failed.

For nearly three decades, Dr. Brånemark continued his studies with fellow scientists getting sceptical about his findings. To counter these, he conducted several tests including the use of humans as subjects before publishing his concrete findings in 1981. Scientific scrutiny of the paper followed but the confidence in the procedure grew within medical circles. Finally in 1982, during the Toronto Conference in Clinical Dentistry, a set of guidelines were drafted and approved for implementation on dental implant procedures. Accordingly, the public began to be convinced and accepted that dental implants are safe and can be very beneficial for their oral health. At that conference, the standardization of the process of placing dental implants jumpstarted of what was highly needed by the field of dentistry.

As the next fourteen years came to pass, Dr. Brånemark published a lot of studies pertaining to the use of titanium for dental implants. But it was not until 1978 that a commercial entity got interested with his work by entering into a partnership with him. A Swedish company, Bofors AB, agreed to develop and market dental implants based on Brånemark's studies. Later, Bofors became Nobel Industries and the Nobelpharma AB became its subsidiary which is solely responsible for the manufacture of dental implants and implantology. Presently, there are over 7 million dental implants that have been placed under the name of Brånemark System. Consequently, a lot of other companies followed suit by producing their own systems for dental implants.

Thus, by the early 1980s, commercial oral implantology grew rapidly within the West. The Osseointegration process by Dr. Brånemark was then widely adapted by dental practitioners and was used to affix bridges permanently as well as individual tooth into patient's mouths. As the implant surgeries proved to be highly successful in over 90% of the cases, the modern dental implant arrived and improvements continue to this day. As the next two decades came to pass, technology and other advancements in medicine only developed it further to provide better options for the patients. There were slight modifications made on the titanium to increase healing time and a lot of other enhancements to increase the comfort of patients. In fact, there are even dentists who design their own programs and systems to make the process of placing implants more convenient for humans. As time and advancements continue, there are definitely going to be further improvements on this dental procedure in making it easier, quicker and less painful.

Advantages of Dental Implants

Compared to bridges and dentures, dentals implants have far many advantages and being a better solution in overcoming the problem of missing teeth is one of them. With that said, it is also obviously a big help in solving the basic necessity of chewing food when natural teeth are gone for good. With them, patients get a feeling of having natural teeth and they also look good since their face will not be hallow. Because dental implants integrate into the structure of your bone, the result is better and no one can easily distinguish of a dental implantation as opposed to dentures. The implant process does not have an altercation effect to the quality of your bordering teeth to prop the implant and dentists try their very best during the operation to leave most of your remaining teeth untouched. Prosthodontists also use the sterilization and disinfection procedures so that there will be infection afterwards. In addition, due to the various improvements made on dental implants, there are now more affordable systems that can be taken advantage of by many patients. Unlike before when only the most affluent patients can undergo with this operation, dental implants are now becoming more available for the general public.

Naturally, the quality of dental implants is very important as it will determine how long it will be useful to the patient. Typically, there is a big difference in its lifetime depending on what materials were used and how sturdy the fusion of bone with the anchor became. However, a general timeframe is somehow agreed around the dental community that implants may last from 15-20 years. This makes it a worthwhile investment if you consider it that way. Patients who require a fixed teeth replacement can have dental implants in single and multiple types. Moreover, the procedure can be applied even to the whole mouth as long as the jaw bones are healthy enough to be placed with titanium screws. It is also crucial that the skill of the dental professional performing the dental implant surgery should be perfect although its success have a lot to do with the general health and oral condition of the patient. If you remember from the history of dental implants we discussed above, it has been proven even from the early application of the process that the success rate of dental implants are amazingly high at 90% as the starting point. When your implants are fully healed, you will be able to eat and speak comfortably thus, you self-confidence will be back when compared to the time you had missing teeth.

Depending on the state of the implant site, there are various ways that can be adapted in the placement of implants. If the patient has healthy bones, a quick method can be completed in just one single day. But when the gum and bones are not healthy, the dentist needs to graft or grow new bone so you have to wait a considerable time for it to heal. When an implant is fixed to the jawbone, it usually takes 3 to 6 months to get completely fused with each other. When the process is complete, a post or an abutment is placed on the implant. However, those of you who have fragile bone structure may have to undergo more complex dental implant processes.

While some people consider dental implant operations as straightforward, there are others who find it complicated as more time have to be spent for the full fusion of bone and titanium screws. Whatever you may think about it, the main factor that can ensure a successful dental implant surgery is to find a qualified dentist. Now that you have sufficient knowledge of its characteristics, history and advantage, you should not be wary of your safety when having dental implants.
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