What do seashells, gold, ivory, ceramic, and titanium have in common? They’ve all been used by humanity to replace missing teeth! Throughout history, clever people have been trying to solve the problem of outliving their teeth through repairs and replacements with different materials, some of which were much more effective than others. As technology and material science march onward, our dental implants also improve in effectiveness, durability, and ability to mimic the real thing.
The earliest known instances of dental augmentation attempted were in Ancient Egypt, where gold wire stabilized loose or compromised teeth. From as early as 2500 BC, we have manuscripts that talk about toothaches and the attempts to alleviate these discomforts. However, the earliest proper dental implants were installed by the Mayans in 600 AD, who worked bits of shell into replacements for the teeth of the lower jaw. The remains containing these implanted bits of shell even show bone regrowth around them, showing that they were successful.
In the 16th through 19th centuries in Europe, teeth were harvested from cadavers for implantation in the mouths of those who could afford them. If you could not, you could also sell your teeth while you were alive for the same purpose. This implantation of real human teeth into a mouth from which they did not grow is called allotransplantation. These teeth were stabilized in place with many various materials, such as silver capsules, corrugated porcelain, and iridium tubes.
In the early 1900s, much progress was made in the science of preparing the jawbones to receive a metal implant into which a replacement tooth could be installed. Many different alloys of precious metals were used in hopes of finding something durable and inert in the chemically active vessel of the mouth.
In 1978, a Dr. P. Brånemark was working with bone implants in rabbits and discovered that with a titanium implant, the bone was able to fuse and integrate with the metal in such a way that the bond of the implant to the surrounding bone was just as strong as the bone itself. If a fracture occurred, it was always in the bone and never separating the bone from the implant. From this data, he was able to carry over this idea into dentistry and further the idea of “osseointegration,” a direct connection between living bone and a load-bearing implant. Because of his work, the concept of dental implantation could be introduced into general dental curricula.
In the 1980s, Drs Straumann and Schroder of Switzerland began experimenting with different surface treatments to allow faster and easier implant integration with the surrounding bone. These treatments allow for a shorter healing time and better osseointegration. Many further improvements have been made in this field, such as sandblasting, machine tool surfacing, chemical and laser etching, and various coatings promoting the surrounding bone’s growth. The most recent dental implant innovations involve fluoride, antibiotics, and growth factors.
Here at The Good Samaritan Dental Implant Institute, we provide each patient with personalized dental implant care, including using the Straumann Pro Arch dental implant system. Straumann Dental Implants use the same surgical-grade titanium used in artificial joint replacements such as knees, hips, shoulders, and ankles. This material is the finest available for dental implants. As we have seen, titanium and its alloys have a proven track record as biomedical implants due to their excellent biocompatibility.
Furthermore, “Titanium zirconium alloys with 13%-17% zirconium (TiZr1317) have better mechanical attributes, such as increased elongation and the fatigue strength, than pure titanium.
Titanium and Zirconium do not prevent the growth of osteoblasts that are essential for osseointegration. Straumann developed Roxolid, which fulfills the requirements of dental implantologists and is 50% stronger than pure titanium.
We certainly have come a long way from the bits of shell and stone that did their best standing in for our precious teeth. The technological leaps forward that we have taken have improved dental implant technology to the point that they are indistinguishable from natural teeth, both by observers and by those they are installed in.