The History of Dental Implants – Part 3
By Stuart Diamond
In this series of articles, we will explore mankind’s earliest attempts to replace missing, broken and diseased teeth. We will follow developments in dental implantation all the way to the present. We will examine breakthrough advances that will be available in the next few years.
The Renaissance transformed the European mindset towards technology and science. No longer relying on spells and magic, leading practitioners of the medical arts were far more disciplined, relying on concrete experimentation and observation. This new spirit was also applicable to dentistry.
Ambroise Paré was a military specialist and considered one of the fathers of modern surgery. Much of his work was in response to injuries inflicted on the battlefields by the new technologies of war, such as guns and cannons. As a result, he explored new techniques to deal with injuries to jaws and teeth. For example, he recommended that “teeth expelled from their sockets accidentally,” should be tied to the “remaining teeth with gold, silver or linen threads, and keeping them tied until stabilization.”
Other historians have written about Paré’s expertise, recounting a story in which the renowned surgeon treated a princess. One of her teeth was extracted and promptly supplanted with another tooth from a young woman-in-waiting. The implanted tooth in time became fixed, and the princess was able to bite on it, as well as she did with her original tooth.
The Frenchman Dupont, was a contemporary of Paré. He adapted Pare’s strategy of extracting teeth that were associated with tooth and gum pain with quick replantation. The technique was adopted by other leading French medical specialists. However, the infections and necrosis of pulp tissue that followed were not immediately associated with the implantation. Once the connection was established, the practice was abandoned.
Gabriele Falloppio often known by his Latin name Fallopius, was one of the most important anatomists and physicians of the sixteenth century. Much of his anatomical studies focused on the head, including the oral cavity, jaw, and teeth.
In his Chirurgia, he recommended that “if a tooth is lost, fails, or is extracted, the tooth itself should be ‘healed’ and put back in its original site, and fixed to the adjacent teeth with gold or metal wire ligature. If the tooth is not recoverable for whatever reason, another one should be made, reproducing the original shape as closely as possible, and inserted into the socket.” He then went on to recommend the use of ivory as the material from which an artificial tooth should be carved.
It should be noted that there is no historical evidence that Fallopio’s dental treatment gained widespread acceptance in practice. It is assumed that if they had, the implantations would have been susceptible to the abscesses and necrosis due to infection that plagued Dupont’s work.
It wouldn’t be until the dawn of another, even more advanced scientific age, and the beginning of germ theory and the importance of sterilization, that would set the stage for a new era of dental implantation, dentistry, and all of medicine in general.