OBJECTIVES: The aim of this prospective study was to assess the effects of abutment removal after 6 months on bone healing after the subcrestal placement of immediately restored, tapered implants in cases of partial posterior mandibular edentulism. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Each of the 24 patients with partial posterior mandibular edentulism was consecutively treated with two immediately restored 3.5 mm diameter tapered implants. A total of 48 implants were placed in healed sites and immediately splinted with a temporary restoration, which was placed in such a way as to avoid occlusal contact. Twenty-four weeks after surgery, 12 patients underwent the standard prosthetic protocol: the abutments were removed and impressions were made directly on the implant platform. Twelve patients underwent the "one abutment at one time" protocol: impressions were made of the abutments using snap-on abutment copies. The final restoration was delivered approximately 6 months after implant insertion. Vertical and horizontal bone changes were assessed using periapical radiographs immediately after surgery and at 6-, 12-, 24- and 36-month follow-up examinations. RESULTS: All implants osseointegrated and were clinically stable at the 6-month follow-up. No statistically significant difference was evidenced between the two groups regarding the measurement of vertical bone healing. A small but significant horizontal bone loss was evidenced in the hard tissue portion over the implant platform in the period of time between the 6-month and 1-year follow-up in the control group. CONCLUSIONS: The non-removal of an abutment placed at the time of surgery results in a statistically significant reduction of the horizontal bone remodeling around the immediately restored, subcrestally placed, tapered implant in cases of partial posterior mandibular edentulism.
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