Over the past 50 years countless attempts have been made to replace missing teeth with dental implants. These implants have taken various forms, including screws, posts, blades and grids of metal. They were very unpredictable and generally failed because they were placed into the jaw in a fashion that allowed soft connective tissue to grow between the implant and the bone. This thin layer of “gum-like” tissue often resulted in looseness of the implant or infection in only five to 10 years.
This was the unsure state of dental implants until 1982. At that time Dr. P.I. Branemark, a Swedish surgeon, published the results of over 25 years of work with implants. His findings have significantly altered the way many dental implants have been performed since that time.
In the 1950s Dr. Branemark was analyzing the repair process of bone tissue. During these experiments he and his colleagues serendipitously discovered that living bone tissue had the ability to bond directly with the space-age metal titanium.
This process, which Dr. Branemark called “osseointegration,” led to a scientific breakthrough in long-term tooth replacement. Combining specially designed titanium implants with a highly refined surgical process, patients can now be provided with an alternative to bridges, partial dentures or full dentures.
The first Branemark implant patients were treated in 1965 and those implants are still functioning today. Since Dr. Branemark treated his first patient, several million of osseo integrated implants have been placed in the mouths of patients worldwide with an extremely high rate of success. Historically, osseointegrated implants that function for at least one year after their placement continue to function successfully at a rate of more than 98 percent. Not only do osseointegrated implants provide more function and comfort, but they also reduce the amount of continuing bone loss due to the loss of natural teeth. The success of the osseointegrated implants requires a team effort: a surgeon to place the implants and a prosthodontist to construct the artificial teeth. Both members of the implant team should have specialized training in implant treatment. Finally, the patient, as a part of the team, must practice careful oral hygiene throughout the surgical procedure, as well as afterward, to ensure the best result.