Ancient Mayans and Dental Implants – History and facts

When looking back at the history of dental implants lots of people would be surprised to know humans have been attempting to make dental implants or teeth replacements for at least a couple of thousands years.


mayan-gem-dental-implantsHumans, no matter the era, have been victims of dental decay, gum disease and accidents, making them lose one, a few or all teeth. It was specially problematic in the ancient times as their already lacking diet couldn’t be adapted… for people who had lost all their teeth, their best option would have been to eat everything grinded out or as a paste.




Mayan Dentistry toolsThanks to the efforts of archaeologists we know people from ancient times had at least certain level of understanding about the physiology of teeth. There is evidence of a tooth from a man 12,000 years ago that had a pseudo-root canal; the tooth was drilled and cleaned of the pulp, and then it seems a resin was used to cover the hole. Just like this, many physicians through history provided people with some very primitive dentistry, specially trying to find a solution for good false teeth. People in Mesoamerica were not any different and even went one step further.


mayan-teeth-drillingLooking at the evidence, Mayans and Aztecs liked their teeth a lot. Everything points out people of all walks of life would look for teeth modification to “look better”. They would drill out small holes on their teeth (not deep enough to reach the pulp) to set small gems and other semi precious stones. Archaeologist and anthropologists agree this was mostly an aesthetic practice. In fact, they have discovered the skull of a woman who had a seashell “implant”. The piece wouldn’t have helped her to eat too well, but it served to complete the look of the smile. It is assumed the seashell had been hammered into the gum and because of the high rate of biocompatibility of the shell (calcium) there was osseointegration present. Osseointegration is the process of the bone bonding with the teeth replacement.  Other materials used were jade, bone and stone. We can’t help but cringe at the prospect of someone having to go through the procedure without modern anesthetic.


It is certainly a relief we live in this modern era. You can get your titanium dental implants with local anesthesia and most of the time you will only be a little sore. Today, titanium is the best biocompatible material with the human body and it is a great alternative to restore the look and functionality to your teeth.