How Rabbits Improved Teeth Replacement
If you lost a tooth a couple thousand years ago, it may have been replaced with a seashell, a stone, animal bones, or something else … if it was replaced at all.
Today, our patients have a much, much better option thanks to some rabbits and an accidental discovery by a Swedish physician.
We’ll explain more about that happy accident in a moment, but for now, just know that dental implants have changed the way modern dentists can replace whole teeth. At Hubbard & Leath Dental, we are proud to offer this service for our patients in Rochester Hills, MI, Troy, and everywhere in between.
The Accidental Discovery
Dr. Per-Ingvar Brånemark is a doctor and an anatomy professor. He also is the father of modern dental implants, and rabbits are the reason.
Dr. Brånemark was doing research on blood circulation when he made his discovery. Specifically, he was studying how white and red blood cells behaved. As part of this research, he placed titanium cylinders into the leg bones of rabbits.
His intention was to remove the cylinders and reuse them throughout his study. This proved to be harder than he expected.
Dr. Brånemark was unable to remove the titanium from the rabbits’ legs because of a process called osseointegration. He actually coined the term to describe what had happened. The bone had bonded and grown around the cylinders in a way that they were held firmly in place.
This wasn’t why he had started his research, but he recognized what it could mean, particularly for dental patients. During the next decade, he worked on creating dental implants with titanium cylinders.
In September of 1965, he successfully placed his dental implants into a patient. The teeth replacement revolution was underway. By the later 1970s and early 1980s, implants were becoming more common.
Today, they are being used throughout the United States and all over the world.
In fact, Dr. Brånemark’s discovery and subsequent inventions landed him a special recognition last month. He was part of the 2016 class of inductees into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
In addition to its use in dentistry, titanium has gained widespread use in joint and knee replacement as well.
How Implants Are Different
Before dental implants, teeth replacements were designed to replace the crowns of missing teeth.
The two most common replacement options were dental bridges and partial dentures. Both of these offered a few specific benefit and the same kind of drawback.
From a cosmetic perspective, a dental bridge and a partial denture could restore the appearance of your smile by filling in the gap with realistic-looking false teeth.
From a functional standpoint, they were better than having an opening where a tooth or teeth should be.
But they are missing a replacement for the root of the lost or missing teeth. Without the root, the jawbone could slowly deteriorate due to lack of stimulation, which prompts new bone tissue growth.
Dental implants solved this problem once and for all. With a dental implant, you really can replace a whole tooth or entire teeth.
The implants are placed into the jawbone directly, just like the roots of your remaining teeth. As you heal from the procedure, the jawbone bonds to and grows around the implant — just as the bones in Dr. Brånemark’s rabbits’ legs did to those cylinders.
This makes your teeth replacement stronger and more secure than ever before.
How Dental Implants Are Used
Dental implants have transformed how we are able to replace missing teeth. Here are the three ways we use them in our practice:
- To replace individual teeth — Before implants, dental bridges would have been a common replacement. This would require removing parts from two healthy teeth to support the bridge.
Now, we can place a single implant in the gap without doing anything to otherwise healthy teeth. The implant has an abutment that can support a dental crown instead.
- To replace multiple teeth — Again, dental bridges or partial dentures would be the most common alternative, only these would be bigger than the ones required for single tooth replacement.
Now, you can get an implant-supported bridge that will remain in place for decades to come.
- To replace an entire arch of teeth — Full dentures can restore your smile, but only a small fraction of your original chewing ability.
A series of dental implants provides a solid foundation that holds dentures where they should be and holds them. This allows you to regain nearly all of your original bite force.
Lucky Rabbit’s Leg
The next time you hear someone talk about a rabbit’s foot for good luck, remember how important their legs were in the development of dental implants.
If you or someone you know should lose a tooth or teeth, please call our dentist office in Rochester Hills, MI, to find out if dental implants can give you back your smile and more. To contact Hubbard & Leath, all you have to do is call 248.266.2528 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation.