Dental Implants in Ancient Civilization

The ancient Mayans may indeed have been the very first people to have used dental implants long before Western civilization. Evidence was accidentally discovered by archaeologists excavating in the Honduras in 1931. They found a jaw fragment of Mayan origin. The jaw belonged to a woman in her twenties, and dated all the way back to 600 AD. What astonished the archaeologists was that there were three tooth-shaped pieces of shell placed into the sockets of where three of her lower incisors should be.

This puzzled the scientists further. Why such a procedure in such a primitive time? Perhaps the shell-shaped implants were a sign of the deceased’s wealth or power, or perhaps it was a way to ensure the person’s soul would be presentable and pleasing to the gods in the afterlife. It was believed that the implants were placed after death for forty years after the discovery.

However, a combination of dentistry and archaeology were to solve this mystery and clear all doubt. In the 1970’s a Brazilian dental professor studied the mandible and took radiographs of it. From his careful observation, he concluded that the implants were not fixed onto the jaw in death, but were actually implanted while the owner of the jaw was still alive. It has been at last proven that the ancient world also practiced dentistry.