What is the History of Dental Implants?
The history of dental implants is kind of interesting. Originally, the current iteration of dental implants was really invented by a medical doctor, an orthopedic surgeon. That’s who we think of as the father of implant dentistry.
An orthopedist using titanium screws for orthopedic procedures thought that there may be a correlation with the mouth and the teeth. Clearly this was many decades ago, and clearly he was onto something. Early on in the history of dental implants, there was a lot of secrecy surrounding it, and so they weren’t really released, and it was a very conservative approach. The dental implants that he was using were these screw type implants, and they were permutations of, again, what we were using for orthopedic style work. It could be 50 years ago now, maybe more.
Fast forward a little bit. He released some findings, using them in many cases to help to stabilize these lower dentures. Lower denture stabilization is really like the holy grail, “How do we fix patients with lower dentures that are not stable”? So, a lot of efforts were made in that direction first as a primary concern, because, remember, we had partial dentures, we had bridges, dental bridges that we could do fixed and removable options, but if you had no teeth and a resorbed ridge, you were kind of sunk, and the lower denture presented major problems to fix. So, at least from my knowledge, I believe that that’s where a lot of that focus was.
After doing a lot of tests and being conservative with his approach to helping to stabilize lower dentures, he was able to launch and release these. Who did he release them to? It was oral surgeons, oral maxillofacial surgeons, other MDs at the time. These oral surgeons with their medical degree felt like this was kind of their territory. And for many, many years, it really was. In fact, the manufacturers of the dental implant product wouldn’t even sell to other dentists. It was just oral surgeons. That was kind of the beginning of who does dental implants. It was seen as a majorly invasive procedure many decades ago. It was seen as something that only surgeons could or should do, seen as a way for medical doctors who were also dentists, could add to their practice.
Over the years, the procedure got refined, patents ran out, and we saw more and more manufacturers offering more and more different types of implants to more and more dentists. In fact, I believe that there was even some litigation done in the field of dentistry where dentists in general that were not MDs were able to ultimately purchase some of these products. Again, many decades ago.