Soft tissue management for dental implants: what are the most effective techniques? A Cochrane systematic review

Marco Esposito, Hassan Maghaireh, Maria Gabriella Grusovin, Ioannis Ziounas, Helen V Worthington
European Journal of Oral Implantology 2012, 5 (3): 221-38

UNLABELLED: This review is based on a Cochrane systematic review entitled 'Interventions for replacing missing teeth: management of soft tissues for dental implants' published in The Cochrane Library (see http:// for information). Cochrane systematic reviews are regularly updated to include new research, and in response to comments and criticisms from readers. If you wish to comment on this review, please send your comments to the Cochrane website or to Marco Esposito. The Cochrane Library should be consulted for the most recent version of the review. The results of a Cochrane review can be interpreted differently, depending on people's perspectives and circumstances. Please consider the conclusions presented carefully. They are the opinions of the review authors, and are not necessarily shared by the Cochrane Collaboration.

PURPOSE: To evaluate whether flapless procedures are beneficial for patients and which is the ideal flap design, whether soft tissue correction/augmentation techniques are beneficial for patients and which are the best techniques, whether techniques to increase the peri-implant keratinised mucosa are beneficial for patients and which are the best techniques, and which are the best suturing techniques/ materials.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The Cochrane Oral Health Group's Trials Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE and EMBASE were searched up to the 9th of June 2011 for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of rootform osseointegrated dental implants, with a follow-up of at least 6 months after function, comparing various techniques to handle soft tissues in relation to dental implants. Primary outcome measures were prosthetic failures, implant failures and biological complications. Screening of eligible studies, assessment of the methodological quality of the trials and data extraction were conducted at least in duplicate and independently by two or more review authors. The statistical unit was the patient and not the prosthesis, the procedure or the implant. RESULTS were expressed using risk ratios for dichotomous outcomes and mean differences for continuous outcomes with 95% confidence intervals (CI).

RESULTS: Seventeen potentially eligible RCTs were identified but only six trials with 138 patients in total could be included. The following techniques were compared in the six included studies: flapless placement of dental implants versus conventional flap elevation (2 trials, 56 patients), crestal versus vestibular incisions (1 trial, 10 patients), Erbium:YAG laser versus flap elevation at the second-stage surgery for implant exposure (1 trial, 20 patients), whether a connective tissue graft at implant placement could be effective in augmenting peri-implant tissues (1 split-mouth trial, 10 patients), and autograft versus an animal-derived collagen matrix to increase the height of the keratinised mucosa (1 trial, 40 patients). On a patient rather than per implant basis, implants placed with a flapless technique and implant exposures performed with laser lead to statistically significantly less postoperative pain than flap elevation. Sites augmented with soft tissue connective grafts had better aesthetics and thicker tissues. Both palatal autografts or the use of a porcine-derived collagen matrix are effective in increasing the height of keratinised mucosa at the cost of a 0.5 mm recession of peri-implant soft tissues. There were no other statistically significant differences for any of the remaining analyses.

CONCLUSIONS: There is limited weak evidence suggesting that flapless implant placement is feasible and has been shown to reduce patient postoperative discomfort in adequately selected patients, that augmentation at implant sites with soft tissue grafts is effective in increasing soft tissue thickness and improving aesthetics, and that one technique to increase the height of keratinised mucosa using autografts or an animal-derived collagen matrix was able to achieve its goal but at the cost of a worsened aesthetic outcome (0.5 mm of recession). There is insufficient reliable evidence to provide recommendations on which is the ideal flap design, the best soft tissue augmentation technique, whether techniques to increase the width of keratinised/attached mucosa are beneficial to patients or not, and which are the best incision/suture techniques/materials. Properly designed and conducted RCTs, with at least 6 months of follow-up, are needed to provide reliable answers to these questions.

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