Known as the father of the modern dental implant, Per-Ingvar Brånemark, M.D., Ph.D., died on Dec. 20, 2014, in his hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden, according to the New York Times. He was 85.
His wife, Barbro Brånemark, said the Swedish orthopedic surgeon and researcher died of a heart attack, the article reported.
Dr. Brånemark received an honorary ADA membership from the ADA Board of Trustees in 2008 for his dedication to the profession of dentistry.
“I think what impresses me the most is that Dr. Brånemark’s ability to think beyond his own medical specialty area allowed him to take a serendipitous finding and apply it to dentistry, leading to the development and widespread acceptance of dental implants,” said John Dmytryk, Department of Periodontics professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry and ADA Council on Scientific Affairs member.
Implants became a major advancement in dentistry after Dr. Brånemark and his team accidentally discovered that titanium could fuse into bone safely. The New York Times explained that Dr. Brånemark was studying how blood flow affects bone healing. He and his team, in 1952, put optical devices encased in titanium into the lower legs of rabbits in order to study the healing process. When they tried to remove the devices, they found that the metal had fused into the bone and couldn’t be removed.
He called that process “osseointegration,” and concluded that titanium could be used to create an anchor for artificial teeth.
According to the New York Times, Dr. Brånemark’s first titanium dental implant patient, in the mid-1960s, was “a man with a cleft palate, jaw deformities and no teeth in his lower jaw.” The operation gave the patient four titanium implants that allowed him to use dentures until his death four decades later.
However, it took Dr. Brånemark years to convince the medical and dental establishment that titanium could be integrated into living tissue, according to the New York Times article. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare approved the Brånemark implants.
In 1982, Dr. Brånemark made the case of osseointegration at a professional meeting in Toronto and “won widespread recognition for his materials and methods.” Titanium implants has since spread well beyond dentistry and is now used in medical and veterinary applications.
Today, Dr. Brånemark’s system of dental implants is manufactured and sold by Nobel Biocare and is still sold as the Brånemark System, according to the New York Times.
Dr. Brånemark was award the Swedish Engineering Academy’s medal for technical innovation, the Swedish Society of Medicine’s Soderberg Prize and the European Inventor Award for Lifetime Achievement, along with other honors and honorary degrees. According to the article, he is survived by his wife, by three children from his first marriage, and four grandchildren.