The Evolution of Dental Implants

Dental implants have long been one of the most beneficial treatments for patients requiring replacement teeth. They are, in fact, the only available restoration that looks and works almost identically like our natural teeth.

Not only will they please you aesthetically and give you back your beautiful smile, but they will also restore your health. 

Implants have been widely investigated and tested to gain the characteristics that make them unique and successful. They are highly durable and strong and can correct your bite, chew, or speech, which can be affected when you miss some of your teeth. 

They’re also considered a great alternative to dentures – which are removable – as the implants remain fixed in the jaw, like our natural teeth. They’re also more beneficial than a conventional dental bridge as no surrounding teeth need to be touched or damaged to fit them.

Over the years, dental implant technology has undergone a dramatic transformation. When you compare how things were a few decades ago to now, the difference is staggering.

Today’s blog will walk you through a dental implant journey to establish how things began and how technology has improved and advanced over the years.

The History Of Dental Implants

People have been searching for solutions to combat tooth loss for thousands of years, and some fascinating facts have been discovered and recorded. 

In ancient China, approximately 4000 years ago, people used pegs from carved bamboo to restore missing teeth. 

After around 2000 years, other civilisations, like the Egyptians, tried to adopt similar techniques by testing and carving other metals to attach to the bone. 

Furthermore, other methods were tested using animal or human donor teeth. For example, enslaved or poor people gave their teeth to Pharaos so they could replace their missing teeth.  

There are many recorded cases where ancient skulls from later years have been found with replacement teeth of various materials (like carved stone, elephant ivory, jade, and even seashell fragments).

The earliest evidence of dental implants was recorded around 600 AD from the ancient Mayan civilisation when an archaeologist discovered a skull with replacement teeth that bone had grown around them.

So, as you can understand, many different ancient forms of ‘implants’ are recorded, but the first dental implants as we know them today weren’t created until the 1960s.

Discovery of Dental Implant Materials

During the 18th and 19th centuries, many different materials were investigated, from gold and platinum to silver, aluminium, and porcelain. Unfortunately, all of them led to poor results and failures; however, they were the base for future research and success.

The primary issue that scientists were struggling with was finding suitable materials that won’t cause severe inflammatory reactions, get rejected from the body, and they would last longer.

A significant discovery was recorded in 1937 when two brothers, Drs. Alvin and Moses Strock successfully used the metal alloy Vitallium on animals and humans without recorded complications and with more long-lasting results. They were recognised as the first to place an implant into the jawbone successfully.

However, the landmark in implant history was the discovery that titanium had all the properties needed to be used for this purpose, as it worked well in the jaw. 

Specifically, in 1952 Dr Per-Ingvar Brånemark, a Swedish orthopaedic surgeon, and surprisingly, not a dentist, discovered that titanium merges well with the human bone without finding signs of rejection–a process which we now call “osseointegration.” 

Interestingly enough, the scientific community criticised and rejected his theories and practices initially, but the doctor didn’t give up. In 1965, Brånemark’s dental replacements were used, becoming the first ever dental implant administered.

Dr Per-Ingvar Brånemark is widely known as the father of modern dental implantology, and with that in mind, we could also call Sweden the birthplace of dental implants.

Moving further, perhaps the most significant change after this breakthrough is how titanium implants are changing. 

Instead of solid titanium, many of them are now being created with the use of nanotechnology. In doing so, it’s helped improve the way titanium fuses with the jaw while lowering the risks of infection as well.

From what we’ve seen so far, the evolution of implants after the initial placement is remarkable. So let’s continue reviewing some of the most important aspects that led to them becoming what they are today.

Smooth Surface vs Rough Surface Implants

Today’s implants come in various shapes and sizes to improve fitting, survival, and success. In addition, the evolution of implant surface technologies and designs is impressive and worth mentioning. 

The surfaces have evolved to enhance osseointegration and stability. However, a shorter recovery and healing period are also important for both doctors and patients.

During the earlier days of dental implants, smooth surface implants were mainly used, and the recovery time for patients was much longer than it is today. Usually, a smooth titanium rod was fused to the bone, and the restoration could be placed on top of it.

Scientists tried to improve the implantation process as much as possible and found that bones grow better and quicker against rough surfaces rather than smooth ones. 

Consequently, to deliver better osseointegration, many companies worked and developed implants that have threads (that will be inserted into the bone like a screw).

By using these types of implants, not only primary stability and osseointegration were succeeded, but also the recovery time was shortened. Specifically, with this evolution, recovery from 6 months is now achieved in 6-8 weeks. 

Additionally, implants can be installed on the same day, but if you replace one or two teeth, the implants need to heal between 6-8 weeks before loading. When you replace all the teeth at once in your jaw, you can deliver the implant bridge for installation on the same day.

All mentioned so far lead us to the next point in the evolution of dental implants; procedure speed.

The Speed Of Completion

Back in the day, the whole procedure could span across multiple appointments over a few weeks or months. As mentioned before, this was primarily down to the type of implant being created.

The smooth surface meant that a period of recovery time was needed for the implant to fit into the jaw and stay in place. Nowadays, implants are snugly placed in their correct position, and the stability of the implant in the jaw is pretty much instant. 

So, there’s no need for patients to go away and wait for the magical connection to happen; they can have their prosthetics right away. 

The nature of the treatment meant that patients couldn’t wear dentures as a temporary solution, and we understand that this can make someone feel uncomfortable or even embarrassed. 

Now, the possibility of walking out of the clinic with brand-new implants and teeth on the same day in specific cases is a reality. This is massively beneficial for patients as they no longer need to deal with the recovery time where they’re essentially walking around with missing teeth.

However, when you replace one or several teeth, you still have to wait 6-12 weeks for the healing process to complete before receiving your teeth for better and long-lasting results.

Dental Implant Technology Advancements

To say that dental implants have come a long way in a short space of time would be the understatement of the century. Since the discovery of titanium over a few decades ago and its integration into the dental implant process, there have been major breakthroughs. 

A significant part of this progress is due to the huge advancements in modern technology that have resulted in the procedure having a 90-95% success rate.

The most revolutionary advancements used today are digital implant planning and computer-guided implant surgery, which we also have incorporated into our clinic to provide the best results to our patients. 

Now, before conducting our implant surgery, we use this computer-aided technology that lets us see the patient in a 3D virtual setting. There we can plan the implant and restoration before implementing it on the patient. 

It also allows us to make digital impressions, which are way more accurate than the traditional ones used in years gone by. This improves the entire procedure as we’re able to plan ahead and virtually practice what’s going to happen. 

So, when the time comes to proceed with dental implant surgery, the virtual plan will become a reality through guided surgery, offering more speed and accuracy. 

 This method results in less pain, swelling, and no bruises because of our minimally invasive technique, where you can go back to work the next day.

Furthermore, as we’ve discussed before, there have been advancements in the materials used to create dental implants and implant prosthetics. 

These days, you can get implants that look identical to your surrounding teeth, they are more durable, and with the latest implant technology, they can last for up to 30 years!

Conclusion: A Change for The Better

There’s a significant difference in dental implants now compared to the first one back in 1965. The whole structure of the implant has changed, and there’s so much technology supporting it.

Dental surgeons can conduct more accurate treatments that are far safer and less painful for patients. The completion time has drastically reduced, and the quality of modern dental implants is simply incomparable to their older versions.

The bottom line is that dental implant technology has evolved and is much better than it once was – and advancements are always ongoing. 

The patient experience is far improved, as are the results. So much so that implants have gone from being a treatment most dentists wanted to avoid to one that’s now mostly recommended and preferred.

Here at Swedish Dental clinic, we use the latest and greatest implant technology to provide the necessary solutions for you. Our service will help you replace missing teeth without the discomfort or maintenance of a denture or conventional bridgework. 

Feel free to contact our team today if you’re interested in a consultation to discuss your options and help you understand all the details and next steps for your dental implant surgery.