Purpose: To evaluate whether short (5 mm) dental implants could be a suitable alternative to augmentation and placement of longer implants (10 mm) in posterior atrophic jaws. Materials and methods: Thirty partially edentulous patients with bilateral posterior edentulism were included: 15 patients having 5 to 7 mm of residual crestal height above the mandibular canal, and 15 patients having 4 to 6 mm of residual crestal height below the maxillary sinus and bone thickness of at least 8 mm measured on a CT scan. The patients were randomised either to receive one to three submerged 5-mm-long Rescue implants (Megagen) or 10-mm-long implants placed in augmented bone according to a split-mouth design. Mandibles were augmented with interpositional anorganic bovine bone blocks (Bio-Oss) and maxillae with granular Bio-Oss placed through a lateral window under the lifted sinus membrane. Resorbable barriers were used to cover the grafted sites. Grafts were left to heal for 4 months before placing the implants using a submerged technique. Four months after implant placement, provisional reinforced acrylic prostheses were delivered and replaced 4 months later by definitive screw-retained metal-ceramic prostheses. Outcome measures were: prosthesis and implant failures, any complications, time needed to fully recover mental nerve function (only for mandibular implants) and patient preference assessed 1 month after loading. All patients were followed up to delivery of the final restorations (4 months after loading). Results: A systematic deviation from the research protocol occurred: the operator used another implant system (EZ Plus, Megagen) for implants 10 mm or longer with a diameter of 4 mm at the augmented sites. No patients dropped out. In 5 patients of the augmented group (all mandibles), there was not enough height to place 10-mm-long implants as planned and shorter implants (7 and 8.5 mm) were used instead. In each group, one prosthesis could not be placed when planned because an implant was found to be mobile at abutment connection: one 5 mm maxillary implant and one 8.5 mm mandibular implant in the augmented group. Five complications occurred: two in the augmented group (one maxillary sinus perforation and one mandibular wound dehiscence after implant placement possibly associated with the failure of one implant) versus three maxillary sinus perforations in the 5-mm-long implant group. The difference was not statistically significant. No patient suffered from permanent disruption of alveolar inferior nerve function, however, significantly more patients had paraesthesia for up to 3 days in the augmented group. There was no statistically significant difference in patient preference with the majority of patients expressing no preference for which treatment they received, finding both of them acceptable.
Keywords: bovine anorganic bone, inlay graft, short dental implants, sinus lift, vertical augmentation