“Robin” from the Bronx underwent surgery at my Manhattan practice. She had a mouthful of pain with a number of dental issues requiring immediate attention. By the end of the day, she left my office with a full set of teeth. I fixated 4 upper and 4 lower implants alongside my prosthodontist partner, Dr. Olga Malkin. And, it’s all due to Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemak—the father of modern dental implant.
I opened up the health news section of the NY Times and it struck me: “Per-Ingvar Branemark, Dental Innovator, dies at 85”
I had the pleasure meeting professor Branemark at a convention where he received a standing ovation for his major discovery of “osseointegration” in the 1950s. “Here’s a man who proved the entire medical community wrong” , I thought to myself. In those times, it was believed that any foreign object introduced in the human body would cause inflammation and eventually will be rejected. As a young researcher, he was studying microcirculation in rabbits. He placed some devices in the bone and when he wanted to remove them, he realized that the titanium devices fused with the bone. For the first time in history, bone and metal (titanium) became inseparable! It was an accidental discovery, but most brilliant ideas come from accidents. He could have thrown that idea away and not think about it twice, but instead, he enrolled the help of engineers, physicists and metallurgist to learn how the surface of titanium impacts bone healing.
When he first presented the findings of his research, no one believed him and his theory was not embraced. But his perseverance paid off. His drive was envisioning millions of people being rehabilitated with titanium. It was not until years later that the movement started: all over the world, medical doctors, dentists and researchers were studying the application of titanium in the human body. Today, the theory of “osseointegration” is taught world-wide in all medical and dental schools.
Milions of people are walking around with titanium inserts, thanks to professor Branemark. Millions of people are smiling with confidence, thanks to “the father of modern dental implants”, as he is often called.
“No one should have to die with their teeth in a glass next to their bed”. This was his dream, and thanks to his passion and drive, it is becoming a reality. He will continue to affect millions of lives without even knowing it. He was a true hero and an inspiration for the rest of us to bring forth new ideas, even when it sounds unfathomable.