Dental Implants and Tooth Replacement: Then, Now and the Future

It would be nice if your teeth lasted a lifetime, but this is not always the case. If you've lost a tooth due to accident or decay, then a dental implant offers a natural looking way to replace that tooth. The technology involved is nothing short of amazing, and your dentist can actually fabricate a permanent prosthetic replacement. The idea of the dental implant has been around for centuries, and yet it's only in recent years that dental implants have become viable as a permanent tooth replacement.

So when did dental implants start? And what can they do for you now? And of course, they might not be the best possible option in the years to come:

The History of Braces

It's easy to think of dental implants as being a reasonably recent invention, but the only recent thing about them is their longevity. With proper oral hygiene, a dental implant can last for many years, if not a lifetime. This did not stop the idea being pioneered much earlier, albeit in a more primitive form.

Skeletal remains dating back to the Mayan era have been discovered, and these showed evidence of a basic form of dental implant. Seashells were cut and shaped into an effective tooth replacement. They were then forced into the gum where the missing tooth used to be.

It seems that the gum tissue then grew around the "implant" which allowed it to function as a tooth. It's not known how successful these implants were, and a lack of hygiene might have resulted in serious illness, which is not an issue nowadays.

Current Brace Usage

Contemporary implants are infinitely more sophisticated, and it's not as though a dentist will simply insert a prosthetic tooth into your gum. The implant itself is a metallic tube, usually made from titanium due to its durability and low-allergen properties. This tube is implanted into your gum and is then left for anywhere between one and three months.

After your gum tissue has grown around the implant, it's considered to be stable, meaning that the rest of the procedure can take place. An abutment is then attached to the metallic tube, which secures the prosthetic tooth. The prosthesis would have been fabricated by your dentist during the months when the titanium implant was fusing to your jaw. With proper care, these dental implants could last for decades, if not a lifetime.

The Future of Brace Technology

Amazingly, it might one day be possible to simply regrow teeth. While the technology is still in its infancy, scientists have discovered a way to regrow teeth (in rats, anyway). A low-intensity laser is programmed to stimulate the rat's existing stem cells, which then program the stem cells to become teeth. A new tooth simply grows where it's missing sibling used to be.

It will be a while before this technology can be used on humans, but it's certainly a possibility. Perhaps one day, a missing tooth will not require an implant. Your dentist will simply zap your gums with a laser and the new tooth will begin to grow.

A dental implant is a remarkable piece of dental technology, and yet it's amazing to think that one day it might be replaced with a laser and a regrown tooth.