I started replacing hopeless teeth with dental implants back in the early 90s, when implants were still relatively new to American dentistry. Since then, I’ve restored almost 25,000 implants, watching with pride as my patients have regained their function, confidence, and beautiful smiles.
I feel particularly impressed when I reflect on how dramatically and rapidly implant technology has changed over the past 25 years. From large and unsightly structures intended only for folks who had lost all their teeth, implant-supported restorations have evolved into something almost unrecognizable. They’re commonly used to replace single teeth – even the highly visible upper incisors – and they can look indistinguishable from the original dentition.
Implant designs have improved to allow for better anchorage in the bone. Titanium continues to be the best material for artificial tooth roots, but manufacturers have developed ways of treating the surface of this extraordinary metal to better allow jaw bone to grow into and fuse with it. As a result, implant failure rates have plummeted to almost nothing. When trauma or atrophy have diminished the dimensions or strength of a patient’s bone, grafting procedures now make it possible to re-create a strong foundation for placing implants.
Perhaps nothing that has occurred has been more important than the leaps in scientific understanding about how implants react with the human body. With greater knowledge, implant treatment has become shorter, less invasive, and less costly. In the early years, getting implants required multiple surgeries stretching over months or even years. Today, in contrast, many patients can have a tooth or teeth extracted and implants placed immediately. Often only one surgery is necessary, and some patients can receive their new teeth on the very day they get the implants.
More breakthroughs are sure to come. But implant patients today can already feel confident that they’re benefiting from decades of breathtaking progress.