Dental implants as we know them today are an incredible medical advancement, only made possible by modern technology and the genius of a few, brilliant innovators. But did you know that the very first dental implants are as much as 4000 years old?
It is true! Scientists discovered that carved bamboo pegs were used to replace missing teeth in ancient China, around 2000 BC. It appears that a full smile and strong bite have been highly valued for thousands of years. Major developments in restorative dentistry, however, weren’t made until much later in human history.
In this post, we’ll be discussing the beginnings and pivotal moments in the history of dental implants and uncover what incredible discovery led to the development of the All-on-4® treatment concept as we know it today.
Dental Implants - A Journey Through Time
It has been a long and winding path from poorly inserted shell pieces and bamboo pegs, to what we now know as the All-on-4® treatment concept. All-on-4® is a comprehensive yet quick solution to restoring missing teeth that is not only fully functional but aesthetically pleasing. Recent developments in modern dentistry have been focussing on reducing the risk of infections and finding ways to maintain a healthy bone structure. Technological advancements have introduced innovative implant solutions that allow us to greatly reduce the invasiveness and scope of surgeries, resulting in faster recovery times and better outcomes for our patients.
The All-on-4® treatment concept is the only restorative solution that:
- Can be completed in a day
- Avoids bone grafting
- Fully restores your ability to bite and chew
- Simulates the look and feel of natural teeth
- Allows you to smile with renewed confidence
- Can overcome bone deficiencies and poor bone quality
- Continues to stimulate the jawbone preventing further bone loss
Dental Implants in Ancient Egypt and Mayan Civilisations
Ancient China wasn’t the only early civilization striving for the perfect smile. Tooth replacements were a common procedure in Egypt, as early as 2500 BC. The Egyptians experimented with different methods of tooth replacements over the next two millennia. This included the use of natural teeth from slaves and animals.
The remains of an Egyptian king dating back to 1000 BC had copper pegs hammered into the jawbone to replace missing teeth. Other remains suggest that our ancestors attempted to save loose teeth by binding them to their more stable neighbours using gold wire.
Around 800 AD, the Mayans used implants made from stone to replace missing teeth. It appears that they did, however, refine their dental implant procedures over centuries: According to discoveries made by an archaeology team in 1931, a human skull dating from 600 AD showed signs of carved shells that were inserted into the jaw, to replace missing teeth.
Europe in the 1500s to 1800’s
Over the following centuries, people tested a range of replacement methods. Since dental hygiene was still unknown to large parts of the modern world, there was a great need to find a reliable solution replacing lost or decaying teeth. From 1500, those who could afford the procedure, turned towards the dead to source new teeth or bought them off of the poor. Unsurprisingly, in the vast majority of cases, these attempts failed due to infections.
It would take until 1886 for the first porcelain crown to be mounted on a platinum disc. But one problem remained: Dentists simply couldn’t figure out how to successfully attach implants to the jawbone. This process would require something that we call ‘Osseointegration’, from the Latin words osseus, meaning "bony" and integrare, "to make whole". It describes the connection or attachment of a living bone to an artificial implant, without which implant dentistry as we know it today would be impossible. It would take nearly another century for the first dental implant procedure to succeed.
The 1960s to 1970s: The First Successful Dental Implant
We have to thank Professor Per Ingvar Brånemark, a Swedish orthopedic surgeon, for the solution to these challenges. In 1957, Brånemark was studying bone healing and regeneration when he discovered that the femur bone of a rabbit had fused to a titanium rod.
He soon realised that the metal could be adhered to the bone without being rejected. Professor Brånemark called this process ‘Osseointegration’. In 1965, he had the chance to test his theory on the first human subject. A 34-year-old patient with missing teeth, the Swedish Gösta Larsson of Gothenburg, volunteered to have titanium dental implants fit.
Professor Brånemark inserted the fixtures into the patient's mandible, and a few months later, once the healing process was concluded, used those fixtures to insert a full set of prosthetic teeth. These dental implants served the patient until the end of their life, more than 40 years later.
This was only the beginning of a wide range of further advancements that would greatly improve the success rates of dental implant procedures and the reliability of the implants themselves.
The 1980s to 1990s
In 1981, after extensive clinical trials and years of research, Brånemark went on to found Nobelpharma. The company was later renamed Nobel Biocare, whose renowned, high-quality dental implant technology is today used in the Next Smile™ All-on-4® treatment concept.
It took until 1982 for the US Food and Drug Administration to approve the use of titanium dental implants. The following year, Dr Matts Andersson of Nobel Biocare developed the Procera restorative solution, a computer-aided method for manufacturing dental crowns.
1998 - Dr Paulo Malo Develops All-on-4®
In 1998, dental implant pioneer of the All-on-4® treatment concept, Dr Paulo Malo created a revolutionary concept for tilted dental implants in cooperation with research sponsor Nobel Biocare. Dr Malo’s groundbreaking new treatment concept included the placement of only four anchoring implants in the upper or lower jawbone, positioned to avoid areas of low bone density and sinus cavities. These implants are inserted at an angle, avoiding areas of thin or poor bone structure and avoiding the necessity of bone grafts therefore increasing the success rate of the implants.. The All-on-4® treatment concept was born.
Today, hundreds of thousands of dental implants are being placed every year. With an exceptional success rate of 98 per cent (in the case of All-on-4® ), these procedures are accompanied by a minimum risk, a predictable outcome and a simplified process of complete full arch-rehabilitation.
If you have any questions about a Next Smile™ All-on-4® or would like to have your personal situation assessed, do not hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team at your local Next Smile™ All-on-4® Centre.