In the past when a person’s teeth were no longer savable, their only option was a removable denture or false teeth. While a removable denture does provide functionality they can be uncomfortable to wear and are not the most natural looking. In 1965 Swedish surgeon Per Ingvar Branemark placed the first modern dental implant and today dental implants are a viable and highly successful treatment option.
Amazingly, dental implants were placed by ancient civilizations. When excavating a Mayan burial site, archaeologists found that teeth had been replaced with stones, jade and shell fragments while the person was alive. It was a medical accident in 1952 that identified the metal that would finally provide long lasting success to modern dental implants. An orthopedic surgeon discovered that he could not remove a small titanium cylinder he had placed in a bone because the titanium metal had bonded to the bone. The special property that titanium has of fusing to bone is the biological basis of modern implants and it is what Dr. Branemark used to create his first dental implant.
Modern dental implants were first used for people who had lost all of their teeth but still had enough jawbone to place a dental implant into. Over the last several decades we have seen massive improvements in the technology which has expanded their use. The original one size fits all implant has developed into multiple sizes and designs. The placement of dental implants has also dramatically advanced. Bone and tissue grafting is now used to allow placement where it was not possible in the past. Cone beam three dimensional X-ray units provide dentists the ability to see the exact bone structure of the jaw. Advanced software can use these images to identify the precise size and location of the implant for the most effective and aesthetic solution. We have reached the point today that a patient can arrive to a dental office with a broken or decayed tooth and within just a couple hours leave with an implant and crown.
Modern dental implants have provided the dentist with another highly successful option for repairing a person’s smile. We now know how important it is to improve a person’s smile. The evidence is overwhelming that a smile affects a person’s brain, body, psyche and those around them. A smile activates the release of dopamine, endorphins and serotonin reducing stress, decreasing heart rate and blood pressure and increasing feelings of happiness. A smiling face is rated as more attractive and a smile is actually physically contagious. All these benefits add up to a longer life. The advancement of dental implants has become one of a number of effective tools for a dentist to give back those smile benefits to their patients.
• Dr. Thomas M. Mattern, DDS, is a fellow in the International Congress of Oral Implantologists and a diplomat in the International Dental Implant Association. He owns the Desert Dentistry offices in Phoenix and has been a longtime volunteer at the St. Vincent DePaul Dental Clinic, Give Kids a Smile campaigns and at Clinica Betel in Atoyac, Mexcio. Reach him at Ahwatukee Desert Dentistry, 480-706-4600.