Filling you in on the history of dental implants

For thousands of years, people all over the world have looked to restore their smiles by replacing a missing tooth. From rough attempts in ancient history to today’s sophisticated dental implants, the overall goal remains the same — to replace the function and appearance of a missing tooth.

Let’s take a trip back in time to see how dental implants developed over the years. 

The first attempts at implants date back to ancient history 

In China, missing teeth were replaced with carved bamboo pegs.

The first metal replacement tooth was a copper peg hammered into the upper jawbone of an Egyptian king. 

The French made attempts to create false teeth from iron.

Archaeological digs have also uncovered false teeth made from jade, oxen bones, animal teeth and other materials.

Later implants are a mix of progress and setbacks

As time marched on, people continued to experiment with various materials to replace missing teeth.

Phoenicians carved teeth from ivory and then stabilized them with gold wire.

Mayans used shells as replacement teeth.

Hondurans used implants made from stone.

Europeans transplanted human teeth from one person to another, a process with a high risk of infection and rejection.

Attempts to use gold, silver, porcelain and iridium in implants were largely unsuccessful.

Metals such as platinum-gold, chrome-cobalt, stainless steel and others were formed into various shapes and used as dental implants with limited success.

Modern breakthroughs make implants commonplace

After decades of inconsistent results, new techniques showed promise and stricter guidelines began to take hold.

A Swedish orthopedic surgeon, Per-Ingvar Brånemark, successfully fused a titanium cylinder to the femur bone of a rabbit.

Brånemark’s innovation paved the way for the first titanium dental implant 13 years later.

The first Dental Implant Consensus Conference was held to establish initial standards for implant dentistry.

Innovation and standards make implants safer and more reliable

Eventually, technical improvements and standard processes lead to the implants of today, which are achieved by surgically inserting a titanium screw into the jaw in place of the missing tooth’s root. Once the implant fuses (or “osseointegrates”) to the jawbone, a crown is attached over the implant.

This process was a big improvement for dental implants in terms of:

  • check-mark-blue

    Safety: Infection, inflammation, rejection or other issues are rare.

  • check-mark-blue

    Dependability: Implants can potentially last a lifetime.

  • check-mark-blue

    Integration: Today’s process leads to bone tissue growth and help join the implant with the bone. It also supports the attached crown like a natural root. 

Pros and cons of modern dental implants

Today’s implants are a proven, effective alternative to dentures and bridges, with a success rate of up to 98%.1 That’s quite an improvement from the bamboo pegs of 4,000 years ago! New technologies have led to smaller-sized implants, improved coatings and new surgical techniques that make implants possible in previously difficult cases.


  • check-mark-blue

    Benefits: Dental implants look and feel more natural than removable dentures, which makes it easier to speak and chew. They’re more comfortable, more convenient and easier to clean than dentures or bridges. They also help preserve the health of surrounding bone and teeth, which can improve quality of life.

  • check-mark-blue

    Potential risks: Despite today’s high success rate, complications can still occur. From smaller issues to implant failure (usually defined as implant looseness or loss), these complications can require additional surgery to repair or replace the implant. Smoking also hinders healing and decreases the odds of long-term success.

Is a dental implant right for you?

If you’re in good health, have healthy gums, and your bone structure offers the right support, your dentist may determine that implants are a good fit. The procedure, if elected, takes place in a series of steps over several months and may involve multiple dental professionals.

Dental benefits for implants vary by plan, so check your plan to see what’s covered before you begin treatment.


Check out even more Grin! articles