OBJECTIVES: To compare resorption of a synthetic biphasic calcium phosphate (BCP) bone-graft substitute with deproteinized bovine bone (DBB) used for human maxillary sinus augmentation. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Eleven patients underwent bilateral maxillary sinus floor augmentation with DBB in one side and a BCP (40%beta-tricalcium phosphate (beta-TCP) and 60% hydroxyapatite) in the contralateral side. Simultaneously, with the augmentation on each side a microimplant was placed vertically from the top of the alveolar crest penetrating the residual bone and the grafting material. Eight months after initial surgery the microimplants were retrieved with a surrounding bone core. The composition of residual graft material and surrounding bone was analysed by scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy. RESULTS: Residual graft material of both types was present as 10-500 mum particles in direct contact with, or completely surrounded by, newly formed bone; smaller particles were also present in non-mineralized tissue. In the case of BCP the bone-graft substitute interface showed evidence of superficial disintegration of particles into individual grains. Median Ca/P ratios (at.%), determined from >200 discreet sites within residual graft particles and adjacent bone, were: DBB: 1.61 (confidence interval [CI] 1.59-1.64); BCP: 1.5 (CI 1.45-1.52); DBB-augmented bone: 1.62 (CI 1.59-1.66); BCP-augmented bone: 1.52 (CI 1.47-1.55); P=0.028 for DBB vs. BCP and DBB- vs. BCP-augmented bone. The reduction in Ca/P ratio for BCP over the healing period is consistent with the dissolution of beta-TCP and reprecipitation on the surface of calcium-deficient hydroxyapatite. CONCLUSION: The beta-TCP component of BCP may be gradually substituted by calcium-deficient hydroxyapatite over the healing period. This process and superficial degranulation of BCP particles may influence the progress of resorption and healing.