The history of dental implants – and where they are heading

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The history of the dental implant stretches back much further than you may think – to approximately 600 A.D to be precise – when the Mayans used a range of materials, from stones and seashells to bones and animal teeth, in order to find ways to preserve their chewing capabilities.

While their materials and methods may have been somewhat primitive, some of these early attempts actually fused to the jawbone, and so in many cases we may assume that they may well have indeed served their intended purpose.

Fast forward to 1809, which saw the first documented dental implant procedure by a French dentist who inserted a gold implant following the extraction of a molar. However, severe pain and swelling followed, making the implant anything but a success.

Implants in the modern era

A quick jump through time brings us to the early twentieth century, home to many of the early pioneers of dental implants. The first submergible threaded cylindrical implant in 1937 – essentially a ball head screwed to the root of the tooth – was quickly followed by the first long-term endosseous (contained within the bone) implant in 1938.

This race to perfect the art of dental implants continued at pace, with varying success rates, throughout the twentieth century, as all manner of new and revolutionary technologies were discovered.

But it was in the 1950s where we really began to see the types of implants that are still in use to this day – that is, titanium, fused to the bone. Having inserted a small titanium cylinder into a bone in order to study how bone healed, an orthopaedic surgeon, Professor P.I. Branemark from Sweden, made a fortuitous discovery when he came to remove it. The surgeon soon realised that the titanium and the bone had fused together due to a process we now know to be osseointegration – the biological basis of the modern implant’s success.

The years that followed saw a wide variety of advancements in the science of implants, from improved surface characteristics, allowing for a greater degree of attachment to the bone, to a greater range of shapes and sizes (earlier incarnations were essentially one-size-fits-all solutions) – and of course markedly improved aesthetics, to give a much more natural look to those permanent teeth.

All of which brings us to the present day – lifelike, osseointegrated implants, with a 98% success rate – one of the greatest inventions in the history of dentistry. However, for many, there still remains one area of the implant process that is yet to be revolutionised – and that is the time taken to carry out the procedure.

Traditionally, once a tooth is extracted, a grace period of several months is allowed to let the gums heal before the implant is placed. Once placed, additional time, approximately three-to-five months, is needed for the implant to integrate into the bone before the crown is affixed – many patients are put off by the idea of waiting up to a year to have their tooth replaced.

Thanks to new advancements in dental technology, they no longer have to – same day dental implants are now a reality. Yes, the dental implant, post and dental crown can now be set in just a single visit.

A new approach

While we are still reluctant to call traditional implant methods ‘the old method,’ we can certainly refer to same day implants as ‘the new and improved method.’ This pioneering technology vastly improves the implant process, and just like its traditional predecessor, it has a 98% success rate.

Of course the first question usually asked is: Just how does the same day procedure get around the osseointegration process?

Quite easily, in fact.

This science on this is very clear: if an implant is placed with a primary stability or torque in excess of 32-45 Ncm, a dentist can then immediately load the implant with a tooth and have the same success rate as the traditional method.

In order to achieve this level of primary stability, tapered/root form and wide implants are used – so instead of augmenting or grafting an area with bone, the dentist would use angulated implants in order to avoid anatomical landmarks like a nerve or the nasal sinus. Essentially this new approach utilises all available bone in order to achieve the necessary primary stability for immediate loading.

Not only does this new approach dramatically reduce treatment time, it also – in the majority of cases – avoids the bone grafting and augmentation procedures that, in some cases, can lead to pain, swelling, complications and the spiralling costs associated with fixing those issues.

The future of implants

I know what you’re thinking: If this new approach is so great, why isn’t everyone doing it? Well, same day dental implants, as with any specialist medical procedure, can only be carried out by highly qualified and specialized clinicians using the latest technology – which is why it is not currently in widespread use across the world.

In fact, our clinic is associated with SameDay Dental Implants clinic in Dubai which was awarded (by the late Professor Branemark himself) the title of “Branemark Osseointegration Center Dubai.” Only 13 centres around the world carry this designation, and SameDay was awarded this specifically because it possesses the skills, expertise and technology to carry out same day implant procedures.

What once took months can now literally be achieved in a day – with no invasive bone grafting, very little discomfort and a success rate to match the traditional alternative.

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