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'Father of implant dentistry' dies at age of 90

January 31, 2017

By David Burger

Baseball's loss became dentistry's gain.

Dr. Leonard I. Linkow, once signed to a contract by the New York Giants to play for their minor league team, went on to become what many considered the "Father of Implant Dentistry."

Dr. Linkow
Dr. Linkow died on Jan. 26 at the age of 90.

According to an obituary published by the American Academy of Implant Prosthodontics, he tried out for the New York Giants under Mel Ott, at that time manager, and Carl Hubbell, then director of the team's farm system.  When offered a contract by these two members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Dr. Linkow declined in order to become a dentist.

He went on to serve as president of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, the world's first organization dedicated to advancing the art and science of dental implants, in 1974 and was a Diplomate of the American Board of Oral Implantology, serving as president in 1993.

"Today the name Linkow is synonymous with dental implants," said Dr. Sheldon Winkler, professor emeritus at Temple University in Philadelphia and executive director of the American Academy of Implant Prosthodontics, said in a statement. "Dr. Linkow is responsible for numerous innovations in implant dentistry.  Among his major contributions are the blade implant, the self-tapping ventplant root form implant, the tripodal subperiosteal implant, immediate loading and the internal hex design for root form implants.  Len was honored by being the only dentist ever to be nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine."

"He really was a pioneer in the field of dental implants," said Dr. Stuart Hirsch, vice dean for international initiatives and development at the New York University College of Dentistry. "Here is an individual that was a leader in the field and moved the field ahead."

Dr. Linkow received the Aaron Gershkoff/Norman Goldberg Award in 1974 and the AAID Foundation presented him with the Isaih Lew Memorial Research Award in 1990. He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the AAID in 2015.

Dr. Linkow published 18 books and authored more than 100 clinical articles. He was clinical professor of implant dentistry at his alma mater, the NYU College of Dentistry, at the time of his death. In 1992 NYU created the first and only endowed chair in implantology in perpetuity with Dr. Linkow as the recipient.  NYU also established the Leonard I. Linkow Library of Implant Dentistry, which is readily available to professionals, educators and lay persons on the internet.

A native of Brooklyn, Dr. Linkow was a radio operator in the U. S. Army Air Force during the final days of World War II.