A dental implant is an artificial tooth root used to support restorations that resemble a single tooth or a number of teeth. Almost all dental implants placed in the 21st century appear similar to an actual tooth root and are placed within the bone.
Dental implants can be used to support crowns, implant-supported bridges, dentures and other dental prostheses.
The Mayans have been discovered to have used the earliest known examples of oral implants embedded in the bone. While excavating Mayan burial sites in Honduras in 1931, archaeologists unearthed a fragment of mandible of Mayan origin, dating from about 600 AD. This mandible had three tooth-shaped pieces of shell placed into the sockets of three missing teeth.
In 1952, the Swedish orthopedic surgeon, Per-Ingvar Brånemark, discovered that bone can be grown into such close proximity with titanium that they effectively become adhered to each other.
This discovery was put to practical use when Brånemark placed the first titanium dental implant into Gösta Larsson.
At the same time, independent research in the United States by Stevens and Alexander led to a 1969 US patent filing for titanium oral implants.
In 1978, Brånemark entered into a commercial partnership with the Swedish defense company, Bofors AB for the development and marketing of his dental implants. With Bofors (later to become Nobel Industries) as the parent company, Nobelpharma AB (later to be renamed Nobel Biocare) was founded in 1981 to focus on the further development of dental implants. To the present day over 7 million Brånemark System implants have now been placed and hundreds of other companies produce oral implants.
The length of time needed for an implant to bond with the bone (a process called osseointegration) is a hotly debated topic. The length of time that practitioners allow the implant to heal before placing a restoration on it varies widely. In general, practitioners allow two to six months for healing but preliminary studies show that early loading of implant may not increase early or long term complications. If the implant is loaded prematurely, it is possible that the implant may move which results in failure. The subsequent time to heal, possibly graft and eventually place a new implant may take up to eighteen months.
A full denture is difficult for many patients to wear and get used to. Sore spots and difficulty chewing are caused when a denture moves around in the mouth. Over time the dental ridges required to support a denture shrink, making it difficult for the dentures to stay in place.
Implants can be utilized to hold the denture in place and improve fit and function.
Lower dentures require 2 implants to properly hold them in place for normal function, one on each side. Additional implants, will provide additional stability.
Although implants are usually place for stability of lower dentures, implants can also be place to add to the stability of upper dentures.