The Origin of Dental Implants

In the 1950’s a Swedish physician, Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark, was experimenting with different materials. He placed a piece of titanium in the leg of a rabbit to see how this metal responded to live bone and surrounding tissue. Although he did not know it at the time, this experiment would lead to the procedure we know today as dental implants.

How could this innocuous action lead to such a discovery? When Dr. Branemark attempted to retrieve the titanium from the rabbit’s leg, he discovered that the metal had so completely fused to bone and surrounding tissue, it was impossible to extricate. He coined this process of metal fusing to bone osseointegration.

Realizing he was on to something, the professor decided it was best to try using this technique in a more contained, controlled area of a body. Today it is highly discouraged to perform any experiments on animals, but the first dental implant was actually performed on a canine.

The first human recipient of a dental implant in the 1960’s passed some forty years later, but the dental implant remained healthy and functional until the end. Of course, there have been many experiments with different metals. Some implants were crude in their appearance and there were many failures.

Research and studies have continued over the past half century making great strides in this procedure. The implant itself is a small apparatus that resembles a screw. The dentist will surgically place the implant in gum tissue where tooth loss has occurred.

As in the research with the rabbit, the titanium implant will fuse to surrounding bone within the gum tissue. The implant will provide strength and support much like the root of a tooth performs for a biological tooth. Titanium is very compatible with human tissue decreasing inflammation and rejection concerns.

The final restoration will be fabricated to match the natural tooth it is replacing in size, shape and color. The surgical area will take four to six months to heal, with the entire process taking up to a year from start to finish. Since infection is the leading cause of implant failure, daily brushing, flossing and following the dentist’s instructions are critical to success.

So today we owe great thanks to Dr. Branemark and all the researchers and scientists that have worked to create a process to successfully restore aesthetics and functionality following tooth loss.

Experiencing frustrating tooth loss? Contact the office of Dr. Paul Lounsberry at 512-200-7422 for more information on dental implant technology.

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