Dental Implants

The evolution of dental implants has seen this tooth replacement system make huge strides in a relatively short time. The advent of implants represented a significant breakthrough in dentistry and they’re now widely used to improve the lives of people of all ages. Advances in the technology behind implants have also made them affordable to more people with missing teeth.

Many different types of implants are now on offer, including mini and micro versions of the standard implant. Implant-supported bridges and overdentures are also proving a popular alternative to traditional bridges and dentures.

A major milestone in the evolution of dental implants came with the introduction of computer-aided design (CAD) in dentistry, making implant treatment even more effective.

Dental implants have evolved to the extent that they are now regarded as the most advanced treatment for missing teeth, with a success rate of 95 percent or greater.

Dental implants are considered unique in:

  • Stimulating bone growth.
  • Supporting surrounding teeth.
  • Restoring the patient’s smile and confidence.
  • Providing a powerful bite function.

The Age-Old Quest to Replace Missing Teeth

There is nothing new in the quest to find solutions to missing teeth. Government health experts say the historical march of progress in the evolution of dental implants is a “rich and fascinating” story.

Throughout the history of civilization, people have sought ways of using dental implants in one form or another to restore function and facial aesthetics in the absence of natural teeth. For instance, the ancient Chinese used bamboo pegs as artificial teeth.

Tooth replacements have come a long way since then but the stumbling block was always the rejection of foreign bodies by bone, and the jaw is no exception.

The eureka moment came in the 1950s when it was realized – purely by chance – that there was a substance that would fuse with bone (in a process called osseointegration) to create an effective dental implant. That material was the metal titanium.

The Titanium Implant is Born

Implant designs expanded in the 1960s. Further research resulted in a pivotal moment in dental history when in 1965 the first titanium dental implant procedure was performed. Since then, dental implant technology has evolved in leaps and bounds through extensive research.

Modern implants consist of a high-grade titanium alloy screw, which is surgically inserted into the bone socket of a missing tooth. Once this tooth root replacement has fused to the jaw, a post is inserted to hold a crown on top.

As the evolution of dental implants headed towards titanium as the signature solution, other materials were tried and found wanting. These included stainless steel, ivory, chromium, cobalt, gold ligature wires, platinum, and iridium.

The Role of Implant Specialists in the Evolution of Dental Implants

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) asserts that the evolution of dental implants has seen the materials and surface coatings of implants restructured and refined to the point that they provide the best tooth-replacement option for the present and the future.

The fact that dental implants have the highest success rate of any surgical implant owes much to the expertise of dental implant specialists. As dental surgeons, implant specialists undertake an extra four years of training in a hospital-based residency after dental school.

The best implant dentists will also keep up to speed with the evolution of dental implants, including advances such as 3D evaluation of CT (computerized tomography) scans to evaluate bone condition, which enables the most effective placement of implants.

The Ongoing Evolution of Dental Implants

Implants were once considered a radical alternative to dentures and bridges but are now regarded as the superior treatment for replacing missing teeth.

Dentists can now plan implant treatment more effectively, place implants with more precision into more areas, and promote bone growth more predictably. Furthermore, advances in implant research, materials, and design are ongoing as the technology behind implants evolves dramatically.

Nanotechnology is also fast becoming part of modern dental implantology to improve the way titanium fuses with bone and to lessen the risk of infection.

Titanium vs. Zirconia

The evolution of dental implants led to the relatively recent introduction of zirconia implants – with a ceramic cap – as an alternative to titanium. Zirconia implants were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011.

Titanium and zirconia are both biocompatible and are incorporated well by bone structure and gums.

However, some dental industry observers believe that the dental adhesive required in zirconia implants can harbor bacteria and claim that the ceramic component of zirconia implants can break more easily than titanium.

Another factor to keep in mind if you’re thinking about getting implants is that the cost of making zirconia implants is higher than that of titanium implants, and this extra expense is passed on to the patient.

What Does the Future Hold for Dental Implants?

The evolution of dental implants has already resulted in cone-beam scanning, enabling your dentist to see a detailed, precise 3D image of your mouth, including soft tissue and bone, so they can achieve the optimum placement of implants.

Advancing technology in computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) and computer-aided design (CAD) is exploring ways to create customized implants as opposed to standard implant designs.

Ongoing developments in 3D imaging, computer-aided design, and computer-aided manufacturing have prompted forecasts that individualized dental implants could be the future of implant dentistry. However, U.S. government health experts say more clinical studies are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach.

Researchers are also working on ways to improve bone grafts, which are necessary if an implant patient has insufficient quality bone in the jaw to sustain an implant.