Osseointegration was first discovered in the 1950s by a Swedish scientist Per-Ingvar Brånemark who was taking part in an experiment studying the blood flow of rabbits. In this experiment he had used titanium chambers to stuffy the flow of the blood to the rabbit’s bone.
Because the cost of titanium was so high, Dr Brånemark decided to recover the chambers used in his experiment and discovered to his surprise, that they were extremely difficult to remove. On closer examination he discovered that the bone had actually bonded itself to the titanium and had in effect ‘become one with it’. This process, which he later termed ‘osseointegration’ he realised, could have massive benefits for human beings and armed with his discovery, he advanced his experiments to include human beings.
After many experiments which confirmed that all bone bonded with titanium, he set about using the process in actual operations on people and later on, others developed this technique and used it in a new dental procedure called ‘dental implants’.
Whilst there was initial debate about the use of this technique, it is now regularly used in the medical profession and in the use of dental implants at many cosmetic dental practices throughout the UK and the rest of the world.
For the process to work, first of all, a flap of skin is removed from the gum in the area where a tooth is missing. The jaw bone is then drilled into with a precision tool and the titanium dental implant inserted into this. Once this has been accurately placed, the flap is sealed up and the patient then sent away for around three months to allow time for the implant to heal. During this period, the bone grows around the implant and ‘osseointegrates’, that is bonds itself tightly to the implant. Once this has occurred, the implant is held very tightly in place indeed and a crown is then usually attached to it. In effect then, this provides the wearer with an excellent replacement for a lost tooth and one which looks the same and feels almost the same too. Most dental implants will last for at least twenty years.
There are some possible complications which can cause problems for the placing of dental implants. The first and most common if these is if the patient has a lack of bone for the implant to be placed into. This is not a major hurdle though and a bone graft can be done beforehand to build up the bone structure. This does mean an extra wait though before the implant can be placed.
Another avoidable problem is smoking. All cosmetic dentists will tell their patients not to smoke at all for a period of a few months either side of the implant at the very least. This is because smoking dramatically increases the risk of gum disease, greatly increasing the chances of the implant being rejected. As this is an expensive procedure, there seems little sense in ignoring the advice.
Some of the greatest medical advances have been made through accidental discoveries and the growing popularity of dental implants would seem to indicate that osseointegration is becoming one of them.
Tony Duncan studied the effects of Osseointegration at University in the UK and did further research with the help of the dental care team at Alexandra Dental Care near to Ashby where he was living at the time.