The universally accepted concept of delay-loaded dental implants has recently been challenged. This study hypothesizes that early loading (decreased implant healing time) leads to increased bone formation and decreased crestal bone loss. We used 17 minipigs to study implants under a controlled load, with non-loaded implants for comparison. Radiographic and histological assessments were made of the osseointegrated bone changes for 3 healing times (between implant insertion and loading), following 5 months of loading. The effect of loading on crestal bone loss depended on the healing time. Early loading preserved the most crestal bone. Delayed loading had significantly more crestal bone loss compared with the non-loaded controls (2.4 mm vs. 0.64 mm; P < 0.05). The histological assessment and biomechanical analyses of the healing bone suggested that loading and bioactivities of osteoblasts exert a synergistic effect on osseointegration that is likely to support the hypothesis that early loading produces more favorable osseointegration.
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