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Interesting facts about Dental Implants


In recent years, dental implants have become a popular solution for replacing missing teeth and when placed well and by experienced surgeons, they are extraordinarily successful.  But did you know that the earliest tooth replacements date back to thousands of years ago?

Early civilisations experimented with different kinds of implants in an attempt to replace lost teeth. The earliest attempts at dental implant tooth replacement on record were discovered in the Mayan civilisation dating back to 600AD. Archeologists have recovered ancient skulls in which teeth were replaced by materials ranging from carved stones, such as jade, to fragments of seashells. Despite primitive methods and materials, some of these early implants actually fused to the jawbone.

Up until the 1980’s, dental implant treatments had a poor reputation with often frequent failures. No one seemed to know how to make them more predictable and successful over a long time. 

As with many significant scientific advances, the discovery of what makes dental implants successful was accidental. In 1952, an orthopaedic surgeon noted that he could not remove a small titanium cylinder he had placed in a bone to study how bone healed. The special property that titanium has of fusing to bone, called osseointegration (“osseo” – bone; “integration” – fusion or joining with), is the biological basis of modern implants’ success.

The Orthopaedic surgeon who discovered and developed this implant formed an implant company called NobelPharma (now know as Nobel Biocare). The first patients to be treated with these implants were those who were missing all of their teeth and who had difficulties wearing and tolerating dentures, largely because they had lost so much of the jawbone that normally supported these dentures. The implants were of a standard design and size.

Modern implants come in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit different clinical situations. Today, most implants re used to replace either single or multiple missing teeth.

Implant Fact #1: Implants stimulate bone growth

The bone around teeth exists only to support the tooth. Once teeth are lost, the jawbone starts to resorb and disappear. Dentures are thought to accelerate bone loss in some patients. Implants are the only tooth replacements that may actually stimulate and maintain bone.

Implant Fact #2: Implant don’t decay or rot

Unlike teeth, it is not possible to get decay in dental implants. That doesn’t mean you can forget about having to look after your new implant teeth. It is important that you care for your dental implants as you would your own teeth. It is important that the gums around the implant are kept clean and disease free to prevent premature failure of dental implants.

Implant Fact #3: Dental implant restorations are a complex piece of equipment

Like any complex equipment (eg  a car, computer or lawn mower) it is important that regular service and maintenance is performed to ensure that it runs as well as possible and doesn’t break down. It is also important that it use to not abused or used inappropriately. A Rolls Royce wouldn’t last long if it was used in off road races unless it was modified or designed to do so. Dental implant restorations are mechanical tooth replacements and the design of any restoration is critical to it being successful. The oral cavity is a violent and unforgiving environment and it is a wonder that our treatments are as successful as they are.

Implant Fact #4: A strong as steel

Titanium has been used in some of the world most top secret military aircraft because of its light weight and high strength. Dental implants are made of commercially pure titanium or combined with other elements to produce titanium alloys. This makes them strong and able to have sufficient strength despite their small dimensions. The most significant property is not the strength of titanium but its ability to attract bone forming cells to its surface and permit the fusion of the implant to the surrounding bone.

Implant Fact #5: Use the Force

Dental implants allow patients to exert greater forces when eating. Patients can produce bite forces up to 90kgs when compared to denture patients who are able to generate approximately 22kgs. This translates to more efficient chewing and improved function.

Implant Fact #6 Implants are not immune to gum disease

Many patients lose their teeth as a result of gum disease: a process where our own cells destroy the bone that supports our teeth. Evidence suggests that patient with untreated/unmanaged gum disease are more likely to suffer implant failures. General dental health is important.

Implant Fact #7: Dental Implants are Biocompatible

Any biomedical material must first not be harmful to living tissue i.e.. be biocompatible. Foreign bodies/materials are usually rejected and ejected by our body’s protective systems. Titanium seems to be an exception to this and titaniums dental implants are ’embraced’ by our body and rarely if ever rejected.

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