Abstract

Qualitative and quantitative analysis of peri-implant tissues around retrieved oral implants is typically done by means of light microscopy on thin histological sections containing the metal surface and the undecalcified bone. It remains, however, a labor-intensive and thus time-consuming job. Moreover, it is a destructive technique that allows tissue quantification in only a limited number of two-dimensional sections. As an alternative, we evaluated the bone structure around screw-shaped titanium implants by means of microfocus computerized tomography (micro-CT) because it presents a number of advantages compared to conventional sectioning techniques: micro-CT is nondestructive, fast, and allows a fully three-dimensional characterization of the bone structure around the implant. Images can be reconstructed in an arbitrary plane, and three-dimensional reconstructions are also possible. Because of its high resolution, individual trabeculae can be visualized. The accuracy of micro-CT was qualitatively evaluated by comparing histological sections with the corresponding CT slices for the same specimen. The overall trabecular structure is very similar according to both techniques. Even very close to the interface, the titanium implant does not seem to produce significant artifacts. Furthermore, because the complete digital data on the trabecular bone structure around the implant is available, it is possible to create finite-element models of the bone-implant system that model the trabeculae in detail so that mechanical stress transfer at the interface can be studied at the level of individual trabeculae. Therefore, micro-CT seems to be very promising for the in vitro assessment of the three-dimensional bone structure around oral implants. Further research will be needed to evaluate its accuracy in a more quantitative way.

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