As we have noted, the world of dental implants is not a new one. Humans have been filling gaps in their pearly whites with a variety of objects for several millennia, with varying degrees of success.
The issue with these attempts has always been encouraging one’s jawbone to actually ‘knit’ to the implant. Without doing so, the socket merely supports the implant – it doesn’t become affixed to the jaw bone, and won’t function as well as its neighbours. It was only quite recently that this issue was finally resolved, and it was due to the properties of the 22nd element, titanium.
Titanium was first noted in 1791. It has been subsequently found to exist in a variety of environments, and has been refined and used in a wide variety of applications. Titanium is strong, lightweight, and resistant to many forms of corrosion – including seawater.
However, it also possesses another unique property. Titanium is the most biocompatible of metals; it can operate quite happily within a human body. Oddly enough, existing here not particularly easy. Many metals will corrode, or otherwise break down. Titanium, however, is coated naturally with an oxide when in the presence of oxygen, which is impermeable and protects the metal from the ravages of the body. It also means they are capable of osseointegration, the process whereby bone will knit to it, as if it were a fellow bone.
Now, titanium implants are employed from head to toe, for everything from bone fractures to ear implants, and of course, dental teeth implants. The unique properties of this metal has revolutionised the way we treat a huge variety of ailments, and have encouraged the adoption of a dental implant that functions as well as its predecessor did.