May 19, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

The Surprising (and Weird) History of Dental Implants

5 min read

When you think of dental implants, a couple of things may come to mind: your grandparents dentures and Flava Flav’s shiny grill. Although you would think that these procedures are from modern times, they actually date back to ancient civilization. For as long as humans have been using primitive technology, dental implants have been tried in different cultures over thousands of years. Although they have undergone a variety of different designs, many civilizations realized the benefit of teeth implants.


So without further ado, here is just about everything you need to know about dental implants.

A Brief Look at Dental Implant History

Dental implants are used to replace tooth roots. They are made to sit alongside your natural teeth through a strong, fixed foundation. Though modern technology now uses titanium in this procedure, the first people to experiment with dental implants had a very different way of implanting false teeth:


4000 years ago

Materials: Bamboo

In ancient China, carved bamboo pegs were used to replace missing teeth. They are the first known people group to use dental implants.

3000 years ago
Materials: Copper and other precious metals
Remains of Egyptians have been discovered with pegs similar to the Chinese dental implants. However, they used precious metals like copper instead of bamboo. They are the first recorded culture to use a metal replacement to fix a jawbone. Some speculate that these procedures were done post-mortem.

2300 years ago
Materials: Iron and Gold
In a Celtic grave in France, a 2300-year-old dental implant was discovered in the mouth of a skeleton. The decorative tooth was held in place by an iron pin, which would have been excruciatingly painful to have hammered in. Something similar has been discovered in the teeth of ancient Romans, who used gold pins. Archaeologists speculate that these kinds of implants were placed in order to enhance the wearers smile. Basically, it’s like an ancient “grill” to bling up someone’s teeth.

2000 years ago
Materials: animal or human teeth
A couple of millenniums ago, people tried to replace lost teeth with animal ones. They would also purchase teeth from slaves or poor people. Today, replacing a tooth with an animal one is classified as a heteroplastic implant, and a tooth from another human is called a homoplastic implant. In most cases, these kind of replacement teeth would be rejected by the host and would lead to infection.

1350 years ago
Materials: Seashells

In 1931, archaeologist Dr. Wilson Popenoe and his wife discovered something fascinating in the lower mandible of the remains of a young Mayan woman from around 630 AD. In her mouth, 3 missing incisors were missing and replaced with pieces of seashell. Interestingly, there was bone growth found around 2 of the implants, showing that it was a successful procedure. The implants served as both a functional and aesthetic enhancement to the mouth.

Modern Dental Implants

Dental implants have come a long way since humanity first developed primitive teeth replacements and enhancements. But what are implants like in the modern dental world?

Father of Dental Implants

The advancements of implants took a huge leap thanks to the Swedish dental professional, Dr. Per-Ingvar Brånemark. Like many great inventions, the discovery of successful implants was accidental. He and his team were studying how blood flow affects bone healing in 1952. During the experiment, they put optical devices encased in titanium into the lower legs of rabbits to observe the healing process. But when the experiment was done, they were unable to remove the device from the bone because the titanium and bone had fused together. He concluded that titanium could be used to anchor artificial teeth, and he named the process “osseointegration.”


According to the New York Times, in the mid-1960s, Dr. Brånemark performed the first titanium dental implant surgery. The patient was a man with jaw deformities, a cleft palate, and no teeth in his lower jaw. The successful dental operation allowed for the patient to use his dentures until his death 4 decades later, thanks to his 4 titanium implants.

Even with this success, it still took Dr. Brånemark years to get the medical and dental establishment to be on board with the use of titanium in dental implants. Even though he did have some successful operations early on, there were many patients whose mouths rejected the titanium implants, resulting in pain and infections. But as the science behind dental implants advanced, his process become accepted by the international dental community. Finally in 1982, Dr. Brånemark made the case of osseointegration at a professional meeting in Toronto. There he won widespread recognition for his methods and materials.

Advantages of Dental Implants

Because of Dr. Brånemark’s work, people around the world have been able to enjoy natural feeling teeth instead of inconvenient dentures. Some of the advantages of modern dental implants include:

  • Improved Oral Health.
    Unlike a tooth-supporting bridge, tooth implants don’t require reducing surrounding teeth. Thus, you have better oral health because more teeth are left intact. It also helps with oral hygiene because it’s easier to clean between implanted teeth.
  • Convenient Eating
    It’s much easier to eat with implants than it is with sliding dentures. Dental implants function like your normal teeth, allowing you to confidently enjoy your favorite foods.
  • Durability
    Implants will last a lifetime when given the proper care. They are made of durable materials that will be functional for years to come.
  • Enhanced appearance
    Dental implants look and feel natural; they replace missing teeth to enhance your smile.
  • Better speech
    Having dentures slip when you talk can cause your words to be slurred or muffled. Dental implants stay in place to keep your speech loud and clear.
  • Self-Esteem
    Nothing boosts confidence like a beautiful smile. Dental implants give you natural looking teeth that boost self-esteem.
  • Comfortable
    Because dental implants are fused into your mouth, they wear comfortably long-term.
  • Convenient
    You’ll never need sticky denture glue to keep these implants in place. Unlike dentures, implants are convenient because you’ll never have to remove them.

How do dental implants work?

Implants are fused to the jawbone, providing natural and comfortable artificial teeth. To receive a dental implant, you must have the following:

  • healthy gums
  • adequate bone support
  • commitment to an oral health regimen
  • regular dental visits to ensure long-term success

Although they are a more expensive form of tooth replacement, the benefits of dental implants are worth the cost, especially when you are part of a discount dental plan. The American Dental Association considers these 2 types of implants to be safe:

Subperiosteal Implants

This type of implant uses a metal frame that is fitted into the jawbone just below the gum tissue. The frame is fixed to the jawbone as the gums heal. Attached to the frame are posts that protrude from the gums. When ready, the artificial teeth are mounted to the posts.

Endosteal Implants

These types of implants are surgically implanted to the jaw bone. As soon as the surrounding gum tissue is healed, a post is connected to the original implant during the second surgery. Like subperiosteal implants, the artificial tooth is then attached to the post.

Overall, dental implants have a very interesting history, all the way from bamboo pegs to titanium rods. Their evolution shows a common trend in humanity stressing the importance of maintaining oral health and appearance.

So which kind of dental implant did you find most interesting? Seashell teeth? Or maybe copper rods? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!


6 thoughts on “The Surprising (and Weird) History of Dental Implants

  1. Dental implants indeed carry a unique yet logical history.
    Why wouldn’t somebody who has lost a tooth want it replaced?
    It just makes sense. So when I see how far back the implant concept goes.
    No wonder our ancestors desired workable teeth also. It is exciting to know that we are not beholden to our genetics or our bad choices or mishaps of our youth. We can enjoy our later years with the ability to chew our food as well as enjoy a social life.

  2. Hello it’s me, I am also visiting this web
    site regularly, this website is really good and the viewers are really sharing good thoughts.

  3. The history of dental implants was pretty interesting. Though my spine got chills when I read the part about the people who got the surgery but their mouths rejected the implants. Thank goodness for how much technology has advanced.

  4. I had no clue that dental implants feel like natural teeth despite being artificial because they are fused to the jawbone. My mom’s tooth got knocked out yesterday so she’s been looking into how to replace it. I’ll tell her about dental implants so that her fake on will feel like a real one.

  5. I had no idea that dental implants, despite being artificial, feel like natural teeth since they are linked to the jawbone.

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