Dental Implant Planning: Then, Now, and the Future

Though there has been a fairly recent rise in oral implantology in the last several decades, the origins of implants go back much further than most people think. The modern age of implants began only in 1950, but even then, implants and the practices of oral surgeons were quite primitive. Things have changed significantly since then. The last fifteen years have seen us make incredible strides in the field.

In the interest of de-mystifying the practice of dental implant planning, we thought we’d provide an overview of the practice itself. By the end, you’ll see that a visit to our facility will be nothing like your last dental appointment––ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago.

We hope that by illustrating the ways in which implantology has advanced over the last few decades, you’ll feel more comfortable going into your next dental appointment.

The Early Days of Dental Implants

As early as the year 2000 BC, primitive versions of dental implants were used in ancient Chinese civilizations. Rather than using an artificial tooth made from ceramic material, they used carved pieces of bamboo. Those tooth-shaped bamboo pegs were then tapped into the bone where the missing tooth was. In 500 BC, the Etruscans fashioned their replacements from the bones of oxen. The Phoenicians of 300 AD, who had previously used gold wire to stabilize unhealthy teeth, would even carve their teeth out of ivory.

These days, the implant process is much more involved, as it requires more than just one single piece. There is the ‘implant,’ the ‘abutment,’ and the ‘crown,’ which we will get to later.

It took another two thousand years for civilizations to implement metal-based pegs. The Egyptians made peg-like implants from a variety of different precious metals. In the 20th century, archaeologists discovered the remains of a Mayan whose incisors had been replaced with pieces of shells. What’s more, there is evidence that these shell pieces didn’t just simply serve aesthetic purposes. The bone growth around the pieces showed that the primitive implant was strong enough to also be functional.

Tooth Implants in Recent History

Like most medical practices, there came something of a lull in dental implantology. For hundreds of years, many dental professionals in Europe resorted to working with grave robbers who would take teeth from the mouths of less-than-fortunate cadavers.

In the 18th century, we saw researchers experiment with golds and alloys—with little success. In the late 19th century, the procedure was attempted with porcelain, but with no long-term success.

What these practitioners began to realize was that dental implants needed to become permanently fused with an individual’s jawbone for them to succeed as tooth replacements. This process of fusing with the jawbone is known as ‘osseointegration’ and was actually discovered entirely by accident in the year 1952 by the Swedish researcher Per-Ingvar Branemark. During an experiment, Dr. Branemark had placed a small piece of titanium in the femur of a rabbit and found he was unable to remove it. That was the moment Branemark realized the titanium had fused itself to the bone.

This massive leap in knowledge spurned the next sixty years of implantology research and development.

The Dental Implant Procedure Today

Today’s dental implants are built upon the same principles laid forth by Branemark and his contemporaries. They’re made from a high-grade titanium alloy, ensuring optimal osseointegration, and are screw shaped.

However, in the decades since this discovery, there have still been many, many developments. Medical anesthesiologists have advanced, implant technologies have progressed, and there has been an even greater emphasis on patient comfort and accessibility.

And there has been no greater improvement to the overall doctor and patient experiences than the advent of digital dentistry and computer-guided surgery.

Digital Dental Implant Surgery: The Way of the Future

In the interest of greater accuracy, shorter surgeries, and quality of care, Dr. Suzanne Caudry, and her staff have integrated digital workflows into our practice. With the use of intraoral scanners, three-dimensional bone scans, and more, Dr. Caudry operates a practice at the forefront of digital dentistry and oral surgery.

In fact, in 2005, Dr. Caudry was one of the very first surgeons in North America to be trained in computer-guided surgery and other digital practices. But growth and development didn’t stop there. Dr. Caudry’s work takes her outside of her practice on a regular basis. Dr. Caudry is a clinical instructor in the Department of Periodontics at the University of Toronto, and also runs regular Study Clubs for dentists practicing in the Greater Toronto Area––for dentists who are eager to learn more about periodontics and implantology. What’s more, she is regularly invited to share her ongoing research and wealth of knowledge at conferences worldwide.

The Dental Implant Procedure Today: The Intraoral Scanner

You might remember getting dental impressions when you were younger. This process was messy and uncomfortable and literally left you with a bad taste in your mouth.

At our facilities, we use the CEREC Omnicam, a state-of-the-art intraoral scanner, which is a revolutionary little piece of dental equipment used to capture highly detailed 3D dental impressions in mere minutes. There is none of the mess of putty-like material, and no worries of discomfort or gagging.

A Periodontist Who Prioritizes the Comfort of the Patient

Computer-guided surgery and these other innovative technologies allow for Dr. Caudry and her team to plan your surgery from start-to-finish before you even sit in the dentist’s chair. With these technologies comes the promise of greater accuracy, less discomfort, and less time spent in the dentist’s chair overall.

Needless to say, if your last visit to the dentist was in your childhood, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that a present-day visit is nothing like you could have imagined.

Are You Starting to Think You Might Need Dental Implants?

If you have any other questions about our treatments and procedures, we invite you to contact our office today at (416) 928-3444.