Dr. Per-Ingvar Brånemark, commonly called the father of the modern dental implant, died on December 20 in Gothenburg, Sweden, at the age of 85.
A Long and Winding Road
Dr. Brånemark didn’t set out to develop dental implants. Instead, he began as a researcher into the effects of blood flow on bone healing. In 1952, he and his colleagues put optical devices with a titanium coating into rabbits to study bone healing. When they tried to remove the devices, they found that the titanium had fused into the bone. He realized that this process, which he called osseointegration, could be used to anchor artificial teeth in the jaw.
Dr. Brånemark was so convinced that the metal could be used safely, he enlisted about 20 of his lab students to have titanium instruments placed in their upper arms.
But others were not convinced that the technique was viable. It was many years before he convinced the US National Institutes of Health to give him a grant to finance the project.
Fighting Conventional Wisdom and Bad Precedents
There was a good reason why no-one wanted to support Dr. Brånemark’s experiments. Conventional wisdom at the time dictated that any foreign material introduced into the body would cause swelling and be rejected. Before Dr. Brånemark, there were many people who had tried to make dental implants, but these devices not only failed, they caused long-term pain for patients.
Nonetheless, when Dr. Brånemark was able to demonstrate his system, it was a success. His first patient was a man with a cleft palate, jaw deformities, and no teeth in his lower jaw. Four implants were placed, and they allowed the man to use dentures for the rest of his life–four decades!
It wasn’t until the mid 1970s that Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare approved his dental implants, and in 1982, Dr. Brånemark shared his insight with the world. It was not the first time he had shared his work, but it was the first time the world was ready to listen to his insight.
Although he is described as the father of dental implants, his wife says that Dr. Brånemark never liked the term “implant,” because previous “implants” had caused so much harm. He preferred to call them “fixtures” because the titanium is fixed in the bone.
Although he is passed, Dr. Brånemark’s legacy lives on, and we are proud to offer dental implants to our patients. If you are looking for dental implants in Philadelphia, please call (610) 272-0828 for an appointment with an implant dentist at Dental Excellence of Blue Bell today.