Dental implants are used to retain and support fixed and removable dental prostheses. In many clinical situations, local bone morphology requires dental implants that have a diameter that is significantly smaller than the typical implant diameters. In these cases, the fatigue life of the smaller diameter implants becomes a critical therapeutic parameter. However, this fatigue life depends on the implant itself, on the physical properties of the bone, as well as on other morphological characteristics that are patient dependent. In other words, this fatigue life varies greatly with each newly placed implant, but the capability to predict the fatigue life of dental implants does not exist today. In this paper, we present the first steps towards establishing such a methodology. We develop a finite element based fatigue model for rigidly mounted dental implants, and correlate its results with both analytical predictions as well as physical measurements. This implies that such a model can be used as a valid predictor of fatigue life of dental implants themselves, and can be used as a valuable implant design tool. Furthermore, we present the design of a cost effective device to measure the fatigue life of dental implants that can be either rigidly or bone mounted (in vitro). This device was used to measure the fatigue life of an initial sample of nine dental implants, and we show that the results predicted by the finite element model correlated well with our initial experimental results.

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