Purpose: To evaluate whether 6-mm-long by 4-mm-wide dental implants could be an alternative to implants at least 10-mm long placed in bone augmented with bone substitutes in posterior atrophic jaws. Materials and methods: A total of 20 patients with bilateral atrophic mandibles and 20 patients with bilateral atrophic maxillae, having 5 to 7 mm of bone height below the maxillary sinus or 6 to 8 mm above the mandibular canal, had their sides of the jaws randomly allocated according to a split-mouth design. They were allocated to receive one to three 6-mm-long and 4-mm-wide implants, or implants at least 10-mm long in augmented bone by two different surgeons in different centres. Mandibles were vertically augmented with interpositional equine bone blocks and resorbable barriers, and implants were placed 3 months later. Maxillary sinuses were augmented with particulated porcine bone via a lateral window and implants were placed simultaneously. All implants were submerged and loaded, after 4 months, with provisional prostheses. Four months later, definitive prostheses were delivered. Outcome measures were prosthesis and implant failures, any complication and radiographic peri-implant marginal bone level changes. The follow-up was 5 years after loading for all patients. Results: Eight patients (five treated in mandibles and three in maxillae) dropped out before the 5-year post-loading follow-up. Four short implants (two maxillary and two mandibular) affected by peri-implantitis failed together with their prostheses versus three mandibular prostheses which could not be placed on implants at least 10-mm long due to graft failures; one was associated with the loss of three implants because of infection. There were no statistically significant differences in implant (P = 1.0) and prosthesis failures (P = 1.0). In total, 19 complications occurred in 14 patients at augmented sites versus five complications in four patients with 6-mm-long implants (P = 0.118). More complications occurred at grafted sites both in mandibles (P = 0.727), and maxillae (P = 0.063), although the differences were not statistically significant. In mandibles, patients with 6-mm-long implants lost an average of 1.34 ± 0.35 mm of peri-implant bone at 5 years versus 2.11 ± 0.59 mm in patients with implants at least 10-mm long. The difference was statistically significant (mean difference = 0.77 ± 0.70 mm; 95% CI: 0.32 to 1.21 mm; P = 0.003). In maxillae, patients with 6-mm-long implants lost an average of 1.52 ± 0.47 mm of peri-implant bone at 5 years versus 1.85 ± 0.51 mm in patients with implants at least 10-mm long. The difference was statistically significant (mean difference = 0.33 ± 0.36 mm; 95% CI: 0.14 to 0.53 mm; P = 0.002). Conclusions: Results at 5 years after loading indicate that 6-mm-long implants with a conventional diameter of 4 mm achieved similar results to longer implants placed in augmented bone. Short implants might be a preferable choice to bone augmentation, especially in posterior mandibles since the treatment was faster, cheaper and associated with less morbidity. However, 10-year post-loading data are necessary before making reliable recommendations.
Keywords: bone substitutes, inlay graft, short dental implants, sinus elevation, vertical augmentation
Conflict of interest statement: Tecnoss and Southern Implants partially supported this trial and donated biomaterials, implants and prosthetic components used in this study. However, the data belonged to the authors and by no means did the manufacturers interfere with the conduct of the trial or the publication of its results.