Believe it or not, dental implants have been around, in some form or other, for thousands of years. The earliest recorded examples of dental implants have been uncovered by archaeologists from within the skulls of ancient Chinese people dating as far back as 2000 BC. These were crudely constructed from bamboo pegs, which contrasts greatly to the readily available dental implants in Herefordshire, it is interesting to note that the desire to have a full set of teeth (whatever they are made of) is nothing new.
Implants throughout the ages
Over the course of history, dental implant design has been continually refined and experimented with, each era making use of the materials and methodologies available within their time. One of the earliest recorded ‘successful’ installations of dental implants came from the Mayan era of around 300 AD, when seashells and other minerals were used to replace missing teeth. Ancient Etruscans were also discovered to have replaced missing teeth with animal bones or rare minerals. Throughout the 1800s, numerous attempts were made by orthopaedists across the globe to replace missing teeth with a multitude of different materials, ranging from other human teeth, to gold. These experiments proved to be largely unsuccessful however, and modern dental implants which resemble those available today, did not emerge until the 1950s. This was when, in 1952, an orthopaedic surgeon first accidentally discovered the unique properties of titanium in biocompatibility, when he discovered a titanium cylinder which had fused itself within the femur bone of a rabbit. Following this discovery, it was hypothesised that the same fusion may be utilised within orthopaedics, and in 1965, an orthopaedist named Branemark first successfully installed a titanium dental implant, and paved the way for the treatment of today.
Bridging the gaps
Modern dental implants are the result of thousands of years of design refinement and ingenuity, and are marvels of modern medicine. Now, the process of having dental implants initially consists of a consultation where the patient and their trusted dental practitioner can discuss the best course of action. This consultation would be carried out to assess the patient’s eligibility for dental implant treatment, as well as to highlight the basics of the process, and what results the patient can expect. Those who require dental implants can often find that having large or unsightly gaps within their teeth to have a largely detrimental impact on their self-esteem and confidence, as well as often leading to further, more serious dental work being required. Following this consultation, provided the patients are eligible for dental implant treatment, the installation process will begin. The initial stage of the implant process consists of the drilling of a small hole into the jawbone of the patient’s mouth – whilst they are under the administration of general or local anaesthetic. Thereafter, a titanium socket is inserted into the gap and is left to be healed. During the short period which follows, the titanium within the socket fuses within the patient’s jawbone. Once fusion has occurred, a replica tooth is then screwed in place, and thus the gap is closed with a virtually indistinguishable, good as new, sturdy tooth which will last for years to come.
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