The dental implant has come a long way since its humble beginnings. The metallic shine of a gold or silver tooth has moved a long way out of our public consciousness; now, we expect our new teeth to not only conform to the look and feel of their predecessor, they are expected to last as long as you do.
The replacement of lost teeth with artificial substitutes has been recorded as far back as the Pheonicians and ancient Egypt, over 5000 years ago, predominantly using gold as a their material of choice. These were succeeded with bone and ivory carvings, held in place with a gold frame.
The Mayans have been accredited with the first legitimate dental implants, a long way from Sydney and Castle Hill! Researchers have discovered bone growth around shell-based implants in the mandible of skulls found here, which looks strikingly similar to that found around modern blade implants.
In more recent times, beginning in the mid-1600s, it became the norm to simply harvest replacement teeth from unknowing volunteers – the dead. During the Napoleonic Wars, it even became somewhat of a fashion statement to have replacement teeth that were harvested from the dead in places like Waterloo. Around this same time, ivory teeth were also fashionable, and were featured by such icons as George Washington.
However, all of these solutions fell short of perfection. Simply, they had no interaction with the jawbone, and the empty socket did not always heal particularly well while being filled with these admittedly creative, but short-term solutions. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that dentists had the idea to affix false teeth with biocompatible screws, such as vitallium and titanium, which allowed bone to grow around the screw over time, securing its position. The development of long-lasting synthetics for the tooth itself, easily moulded to the perfect shape, has secured this method as our era’s best option.