Smiling Serendipity: The Accidental Discovery of the Modern Dental Implant

Modern Dental Implant in TamworthDr Brånemark was far from a position to make any sort of dental breakthrough. Still, as it turned out, he was close enough.

It is part of the scientific process, but no academic can deny how vexing it is to see things not go according to plan. For Per-Ingvar Brånemark, finding difficulty in removing metal wedged in bone was a curious obstacle, to say the least.

A Rabbit’s Leap

The physician and research professor from Sweden only set out to learn more about blood flow and healing in rabbit femurs, and he did so by affixing titanium-encased optical devices to specimens’ legs. Upon concluding his visual observations, he noted, to his surprise, how fractures were present exclusively between bone matter — never between bone and metal. A second surprise came when Dr Brånemark discovered that the metal had fused with the organic matter.

That unexpected discovery would become the lifeblood of the doctor’s career for the ensuing decades, and eventually give rise to one of the most important treatment methods not only in dentistry but in medicine as well.

A Biting Breakthrough

The initial batch of dental implants that emulated Dr Brånemark’s 1952 accident was not exactly equal with today’s renditions, but since the same principles of osseointegration were at play, it was reliable enough to pique global interest and make the doctor align more towards dentistry than his original profession. The technology was so groundbreaking; some patients were even able to make their new ‘teeth’ last for more than 40 years, dental implant manufacturers from Castle Ceramics note.

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The integration of metal into the human body without inflammation and rejection was a mere medical fantasy before 1952, with the medical and dental community doubting osseointegration’s validity until Dr Brånemark himself presented the two-stage threaded titanium root-form implant he had been working on for the better of 26 years.

Again, the medical and dental community — as they should — had doubts, and Dr Brånemark was a dedicated member of both communities. Now, his serendipitous discovery made him a pillar for both.