Soft tissue barrier around a dental implant plays a crucial role in the success of dental implants because it protects underlying hard tissue structures. A number of surface alteration procedures of implants have been introduced to improve bone-implant contact, but there has been little research on the peri-implant soft tissue (PIS) seal. The present study focuses on the "biologic width" of epithelial and connective tissue seals around implants with various typical surface finishes by testing surfaces that have been machined (Ms), roughened by sandblasting and acid etching (Rs), treated hydrothermally with CaCl2 (Cs), or anodized (As). Ms, Rs, and As techniques are commonly used to finish surfaces of commercially available dental implants. The Cs technique was reported to produce strong epithelial cell-titanium adhesion. For culture study, rat oral epithelial cells (OECs) and fibroblasts were cultured on Ms, Rs, Cs, and As titanium plates. There was less cell adherence of OECs and more collagen expression when cultured on Rs and As plates than when cultured on Ms and Cs plates. For the in vivo study, implants with Ms, Rs, Cs, and As surfaces were placed in the rats' oral cavity. Although the PIS structure was similar to that around natural teeth, a horseradish peroxide assay revealed that the sealing ability around the Ms and Rs implants was weaker than that around Cs implants. After 16 weeks, Rs implants exhibited peri-implant epithelial apical down-growth and had lost bone support. Thus, although a smooth surface (Ms and Cs) showed better epithelial attachment, rough surfaces (Rs and As) are more suitable for binding to the connective tissue. Strong epithelium-implant attachment seems to be a fundamental defense against foreign body penetration. Selecting suitable surfaces to ensure strong sealing is important for implant success.
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