Dental Implants come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, models, and every company says they have the best design, but the truth is that only about 3 companies actually have any evidence that backs up their claims.
Platform switching relates to the junction between the implant and the abutment, and its a very important area, as this is where you can get bacterial leakage, micro movement, and then bone loss around the neck of the implant.
The diagram in the middle shows an abutment attached to a dental implant, where the width of the abutment is the same as the width of the implant. In this case, there is no platform switching. At this junction, you will get a little bacterial leakage (I will explain how this can be reduced), and micro movement.
Over time, this movement will not allow bone to grow next to the junction, and you can see bone loss around the neck of the implant, compared to when the implant was first placed.
If there is platform switching in the design of the implant, then the junction of the implant and the abutment is away from the edge of the implant, and often extra bone growth is seen around the neck of the implant.
Why is this important?
It is critical that over the long term bone levels are maintained, otherwise the gum around the implant will start to reduce. This may not be a problem at the back of the mouth, however at the front, this can have huge cosmetic problems. It is unlikely that this will cause issues with function, as you only lose bone to about the first thread… If you lose more, then maybe you have a bigger problem!
Other important design features
Few implants these days have polished necks, but these have been shown to have more bone loss associated with them than unpolished implants. This is probably because the smooth surface is hard for bone to bind to.
The morse taper is the way the implant and the abutment join, it is a specific, varying taper: imagine two pint glasses being stacked on each other, but these glasses were specifically designed to fit perfectly: this is similar to a morse taper. This type of fit is so tight that it is bacteriostatic, and this is another reason that the implant systems that use this do not often show bone loss around the implant neck.
Morse tapers are widely used, and are relied upon in the design of Formula 1 cars, to help keep the wheels on. An F1 car wheel is held on with one nut, and the morse taper does the rest: very similar to how a dental implant and abutment are connected.
Dr Sehmi carries out dental implant referrals in the London area (Kensington), if you are a dentist, and would like to refer a case, please get in touch, we can teach you to restore the implant at your own clinic.