Purpose: The aim of this in vitro study of titanium abutments was to investigate the extent of treatment traces, the roughness depth, and the quantity of titanium or, in the case of coated abutments, titanium nitride (TiN) removed from the surface after treatment with various instruments.
Materials and methods: Eleven uncoated, mechanically smoothed abutments and 11 TiN-coated abutments were used. The abutments were treated with titanium, steel, and plastic curettes; a rubber cup; an ultrasonic scaler with a steel tip; and an air scaler and cleaning powder. There were two 2 x 2-mm test fields on each abutment; each was subjected to standardized treatment with an instrument. The untreated surfaces of each abutment served as controls. The roughness depth (Rz) and profile height of treated and untreated surfaces were measured with a profilometer; profile height served as a basis for determining the amount of substance removed by treatment. The treatment traces were analyzed by scanning electron microscopy and light microscopy.
Results: Both the ultrasonic scaler and the steel and titanium curettes left pronounced traces on the uncoated abutments and increased Rz. Substantial substance removal was recorded following the use of the ultrasonic scaler (17.57 +/- 2.87 microm) and the steel curettes (8.48 +/- 2.81 microm) on the uncoated abutments. In tests of the coated abutments, measurable substance removal (4.80 +/- 0.99 microm) and increased roughness depth were noted only with use of the steel curettes. The treatment traces left by the other instruments were distinctly less pronounced than on the uncoated abutments. Light microscopy revealed detachment of the TiN coating after use of the ultrasonic scaler, titanium curettes, and steel curettes. Slight to moderate treatment traces were recorded after use of the rubber cup; no substance removal was observed. On the TiN-coated abutments, only slight treatment traces, if any, were recorded, and there was no substance removal. A planing effect (ie, an Rz decrease of 66.4%) was observed. The plastic curette and the air scaler caused no damage to the titanium or TiN surfaces.
Discussion and conclusion: The TiN-coated abutments displayed fewer treatment traces, less roughness depth, and less substance removal after being treated with various instruments. Two concerns, however, are the detachment of the coating after only few actions with steel and titanium curettes or with an ultrasonic scaler with steel tip, and the greater initial roughness depth of coated implants.