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Volume 26 , Issue 3
May/June 2011

Pages 547–552

Argon Ion Beam Polishing: A Preparation Technique for Evaluating the Interface of Osseointegrated Implants with High Resolution

Daniel Grüner, Dr rer nat/Jenny Fäldt, PhD/Kjell Jansson, PhD/Zhijian Shen, PhD

PMID: 21691601

Purpose: The objective of this study was to assess the use of ion beam polishing for preparing cross sections suitable for high-resolution scanning electron microscope (SEM) investigation of dental implants with a brittle porous oxide layer and of bone/implant interfaces. Materials and Methods: Thirteen Nobel Biocare TiUnite implants were placed in minipigs. After 4 weeks, the implant and surrounding bone were removed en bloc and the implant was cut axially into two halves. The cross section was then polished with an argon ion beam. Additionally, ion beam–polished cross sections were prepared from four as-received implants. Ion beam–polished surfaces were studied with a field emission SEM (FE-SEM). Results: With FE-SEM, up to 1 mm along the interface of ion beam–polished implant surfaces can be studied with a resolution of a few nanometers. Filled and unfilled pores of the porous TiUnite coating can be distinguished, providing information on pore accessibility. Implant-bone interfaces can be analyzed using backscattered electron images, where titanium, the oxide layer, mineralized extracellular matrix, and osteocyte lacunae/resin/soft tissue can easily be distinguished as a result of atomic number contrast and the sharp boundaries between the different materials. Filled and unfilled pores can be distinguished. Characterization of local chemistry is possible with energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry, and bone growth into small pores (< 1 µm) can be unambiguously confirmed. Conclusion: FE-SEM complements the established methods for the characterization of interfaces and bridges the wide gap in accessible length scale and resolution between the observations of mechanically polished interfaces by optical or scanning electron microscopes and the observation of focused ion beam–milled sections in a transmission electron microscope. Int J Oral Maxillofac Implants 2011;26:547–552

Key words: dental implant, interface, ion beam, osseointegration, surface properties

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