The experimental determination of local bone deformations due to implant loading would allow for a better understanding of the biomechanical behavior of the bone-implant-prosthesis system as well as the influence of uneven force distribution on the onset of implant complications. The present study aimed at describing an innovative in vivo strain gauge measurement technique to evaluate implant-to-bone force transmission, assessing whether and how oral implants can transfer occlusal forces through maxillary bones. In vivo force measurements were performed in the maxillary premolar region of a male patient who had previously received a successful osseointegrated titanium implant. Three linear mini-strain gauges were bonded onto three different buccal cortical bone locations (i.e. coronal, middle, apical) and connected to strain measuring hardware and software. A customized screw-retained abutment was manufactured to allow for vertical and horizontal loading tests. As to the vertical load test, the patient was instructed to bite on a load cell applying his maximum occlusal force for 20 s and then recovering for 10 s to restore the bone unstrained state; the test was repeated 20 times consecutively. As regards the horizontal load test, the implant was subjected to a total of 20 load applications with force intensities of 5 and 10 kg. During the tests, the recorded signals were plotted in real time on a graph as a function of time by means of a strain analysis software. The described strain gauge measurement technique proved to be effective in recording the forces transmitted from osseointegrated implants to the cortical bone. Horizontal loads caused higher deformations of cortical bone than vertical biting forces; in both situations, the deformation induced by the force transferred from the implant to the bone progressively decreased from the coronal to the apical third of the alveolar ridge. At approximately 9 mm from the implant neck, the effect of occlusal force transmission through osseointegrated titanium implants was negligible if compared to the apical region.
Keywords: Bioengineering; Bone biology; Dental implant(s); Mastication; Mechanotransduction; Oral implants/implantology.
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