The History of Dental Implants


Dental implants are a modern science marvel and feature cutting-edge technology, literally attaching a prosthetic tooth to your mouth with a titanium post. While it may seem like science fiction, it’s science fact, giving millions of Americans the chance to have a beautiful smile after an unfortunate tooth loss. However, many people are surprised to learn that dental implants have been around for thousands of years, with the earliest evidence of bamboo implants found 4,000 years ago in China. When it comes to dental implants, we here at Platte Valley Dental Care consider ourselves to be experts on the topic and are excited to share a little bit about their history with you.

Dental Implants, Then and Now

While Chinese people were using bamboo pegs to replace missing teeth thousands of years ago, other cultures were also experimenting with dental implants. As early as 3,000 years ago, an Egyptian king had a copper peg hammered into his mouth, though history experts believe that it must have been placed after he died as a cosmetic or otherwise symbolic feature.

The Mayans were advancing medicine 1,350 years ago by placing bits of jade or shell into the mouth to replace missing teeth. Unlike the Egyptian king, though, there is strong evidence that these shell fragments were placed while the person was still alive. How do we know this? The bone had built up around the shell, not unlike how the jawbone fuses to the titanium post in modern dental implants!

As medicine and technology improved, so did the methods for placement and materials. In the past, crude materials were used, but around 125 years ago (in 1896) a doctor did try to use porcelain and platinum to create a tooth on a patient. The body rejected it, as it had so many times before. It took a doctor in 1952 to realize that titanium and bone do successfully merge, in a process called “osseointegration.” Titanium is considered “biocompatible,” and therefore the body does not reject it, making it the ideal material for dental implants.

Throughout the 1970's and 1980's, more and more patients volunteered to try out dental implants. These implants were a resounding success, paving the way to get to where we are today with dental implants. Every year, a half million people get dental implants, making this procedure extremely common and safe and the best choice for over 3 million Americans. They are now comprised of three parts, including the titanium post (which attaches to the bone), the abutment (which joins the post to the crown), and the porcelain crown (which looks and feels completely natural).

Our ancient ancestors were ambitious, though it’s difficult to try to imagine implant surgery without anesthesia. Today, we place implants in just a couple hours in the comfort of our clean and sanitary office with minimal discomfort to our patients. We certainly have come a long way over the past 4,000 years! If you would like to learn more about dental implants, or you’re interested in determining if you would be a good candidate for this fascinating and highly beneficial procedure, please give us here at Platte Valley Dental Care a call at (816) 219-3133 today!

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