Dental implants have been used as a method to replace individual teeth or larger gaps in the dentition since the 1980s . For the patient, an implant is very comfortable compared to conventional dental prostheses: If dental implants are inserted correctly, they can hardly be distinguished from natural teeth – neither externally nor from the person wearing the implants. It is important to pay attention to the selection of a good dentist who has experience in implantology. Because not every jaw is equally suitable for an implant.
Teeth implants are used in every twentieth dental prosthesis performed today. The path led through numerous unsuccessful attempts and new scientific findings to the dental implants that are routinely used today.
History of dental implants
Skull finds show that various materials were used to replace teeth as early as 2000 to 3000 years ago. Initially teeth were carved out of ivory, wood or quartz and later on iron was used. Later on, plastics were also used for dentures. In the last few decades, various forms of removable and fixed dentures have been developed, but not all of them have proven themselves equally well. In addition, the pressure exerted by the root of a healthy tooth in the jaw is important to stimulate the jawbone to form new bone material. In the case of dentures, the lack of anchoring in the jaw often leads to a long-term reduction in bone density and a regression of the bones in the jaw.
The aim of the dentists, who laid the foundation for modern implantology , was therefore to anchor the teeth directly in the jawbone, which largely corresponds to the conditions in healthy teeth. In the 19th and 20th centuries, various materials such as gold, platinum, celluloid or porcelain were introduced into the jawbone. Later, new materials such as chrome, molybdenum and cobalt were added. The experimenters are concerned not only with how well the substances bonded to the jawbone and how stable they could be anchored, but also with the ideal shape that an implant must have.
Function and importance of healthy teeth
Many people only notice how important their teeth are to a person when they have dental problems. The teeth are our most important tool for biting off, grinding and chopping food and are therefore the basic requirement for being able to ingest solid food. In addition, the teeth shape the lower part of the face and contribute significantly to the pronunciation and articulation of sounds. Even the loss of a single tooth, especially in the front part of the jaw, can lead to problems when speaking and to an altered formation of the speech sounds. Last but not least, the appearance of the teeth largely determines the impression one has of a face. Many people involuntarily interpret the visual impression of the teeth as a social and societal figurehead.
If teeth are missing, the adjacent teeth will very quickly change their position. If the two rows of teeth in the upper and lower jaw no longer fit together exactly, this can lead to many problems. The resulting tension in the jaw affects the temporomandibular joint, muscles and ligaments. Misalignment of the teeth can trigger muscle tension and headaches – up to and including migraines. These many important functions of the teeth make it clear why people have sought to replace lost teeth for a very long time.
Modern implantology as an opportunity
The breakthrough that laid the foundation for the routine use of dental implants was the discovery of titanium as a material for implants .
The Swedish anatomist and histologist Per-Ingvar Branemark discovered by chance in animal experiments in the 1960s that titanium implanted in the bones grew firmly together with the bone substance. In 1969 he coined the term osseointegration (the biological fusion of bone material with foreign matter), which is still used today , for this connection between the titanium implant and the bone.
Titanium was shown to be extremely compatible and better suited for dental implants than any material investigated up to then. In the 1970s, titanium implants were continuously improved, so that the methodology of dental implants finally had a scientific breakthrough in 1982.
Many dentists have acquired the relevant knowledge through advanced training or work closely with oral surgeons or specialists. Even today, the majority of the implants used are made of titanium.