The history of oral implants

Dental clinics offering fixed prosthetics like Sheen dental implants Richmond have become commonplace on the high street. The procedure itself is becoming more common and is seen as part of standard dentistry. Implants haven’t always been like this, although the concept of replacing teeth has clearly been active in people’s minds from the earliest times. 

Early implants and fixed prosthetics

The idea of implanting prosthetic teeth is not new. There are several archaeological finds showing early attempts at this. 4.5 thousand-year-old Egyptian mummies have been found with a sort of fixed bridge with bands of soft gold used to hold it to adjacent teeth and anchor the prosthetic in place. To the Etruscans in Northern Italy who took this one step further with a device that is considered the first wired fixed bridge. A skull found on a Polynesian island shows the implantation of a shell into the lower jawbone designed to replace incisors. It seems that the pieces of shell were hammered into the jaw and then later filed into the shape of the final tooth. In Honduras, oral implants were made of semi-precious stones. It seems that these implants were pre-sculpted before being placed into vacant sockets, with their ‘roots’ deliberately ridged so that new bone growth would hold them in place. 

Early European dentistry

The focus of late mediaeval Renaissance dentistry was on restoration over replacement, with various ideas of how to stabilise teeth. Some of these were more practical like tree resins and tiles and others were more esoteric like the application of ground emerald powder to prevent decay. This would have worked like an abrasive but would likely be no better than salt or fine sand. 

In the 1500s, the first regular transplantation of human teeth occurred when the deceased or impoverished people were paid for their teeth to be implanted into wealthy aristocratic customers. This allotransplantation had very mixed results, as there was no knowledge of immune system rejection or even an attempt to match blood types. 

Extensive experimentation led to studies exploring the various materials that could be used in implants. None found their way into common use as the results were a variable at best.  Significant strides forward were made in 1913 by Dr Greenfield who developed a hollow cylinder lattice of iridium and palladium that had been soldered with pure gold as an artificial root system. This had the space for new bone to develop inside the cylinder and it provided strong support to mount crowns. 

Titanium bonded implants

In 1978, Braemark conducted the first successful two-stage titanium rooted implantation; he developed the system from titanium fixtures used in hip implantation that had been well documented in surgical pins since the 1960s. 
What makes titanium groundbreaking when it interacts with living bone is the way the bone bonds and grows into the titanium surface, therefore, maximising contact area and strongly adhering to the surgical pin. When this is emulated in the jawbone it makes it an excellent foundation for holding a prosthetic tooth in place.This material was previously only used in reconstructive surgery, but today,  osseointegration has become part of a dental tool kit and lexicon. Thus, the two-part system of dental implantation has become a global standard.