Implant Dentistry Loses Pioneer

Implant dentistry lost one of its most accomplished research professors and surgeons with the passing of Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark on Dec. 20 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Dr. Branemark had a particularly strong influence on me. Although I never met him in person, I studied his research and saw his lectures while I was in training to be a periodontist.

Called a “dental innovator” and the “father of implant dentistry,” Dr. Branemark was an orthopedic surgeon studying how blood flow affects bone healing by implanting titanium devices in the legs of rabbits when he discovered the titanium and bone fused, creating a very secure and permanent bond.

He deduced that, if the body could tolerate titanium implants, they could be used to create an anchor for artificial teeth, freeing millions of people from having to use painful, ill-fitting dentures. Hence his designation as the father of the modern dental implant.

Despite years of rejection for his research and proposals, Dr. Branemark persevered and, eventually, won widespread approval of his methods and materials. As a result, his Branemark System remains a leading dental implant solution today and millions of people no longer need to rely on dentures to replace lost or damaged teeth.

Dr. Branemark’s research was published while I was still studying dentistry and he ultimately became my mentor for dental implants. His work not only brought us an amazing innovation that benefits people worldwide…he changed the way I practice my profession.

His approach of using medical science to solve dental problems helped point me toward the whole mouth approach I embrace today. Don’t just treat teeth or gum problems as an isolated issue, treat the whole mouth as the gateway to overall better health. Devise a comprehensive plan geared to preventing periodontal (gum) disease and tooth loss in the first place but, should the need arise, use the technology Dr. Branemark developed to replace missing and diseased teeth with stable dental implants, allowing our patients to eat heartily and smile broadly for a lifetime.

The lessons I learned from him have served me and my patients well.

When the world lost Per-Ingvar Branemark, I lost a mentor. But his inspiration — that will remain with me for a lifetime.

(David G. Genet, DMD is an Aventura, Fla., periodontist who specializes in the management of complicated dental issues for patients of all ages. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine before completing his periodontal training at Columbia University.)