Numerical evaluation of bulk material properties of dental composites using two-phase finite element models

Jianying Li, Haiyan Li, Alex S L Fok, David C Watts
Dental Materials 2012, 28 (9): 996-1003

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to numerically evaluate the effects of filler contents and resin properties on the material properties of dental composites utilizing realistic 3D micromechanical finite element models.

METHODS: 3D micromechanical finite element models of dental composites containing irregular fillers with non-uniform sizes were created based on a large-scale, surrogate mixture fabricated from irregularly shaped stones and casting resin. The surrogate mixture was first scanned with a micro-CT scanner, and the images reassembled to produce a 3D finite element model. Different filler fractions were achieved by adjusting the matrix volume while keeping the fillers unchanged. Polymerization shrinkage, Young's modulus, Poisson's ratio and viscosity of the model composites were predicted using the finite element models, and their dependence on the filler fraction and material properties of the resin matrix were considered. Comparison of the numerical predictions with available experimental data and analytical models from the literature was performed.

RESULTS: Increased filler fraction resulted in lower material shrinkage, higher Young's modulus, lower Poisson's ratio and higher viscosity in the composite. Predicted shrinkage and Young's modulus agreed well with the experimental data and analytical predictions. The McGee-McCullough model best fit the shrinkage and Young's modulus predicted by the finite element method. However, a new parameter, used as the exponent of the filler fraction, had to be introduced to the McGee-McCullough model to better match the predicted viscosity and Poisson's ratio with those from the finite element analysis.

SIGNIFICANCE: Realistic micro-structural finite element models were successfully applied to study the effects of filler fraction and matrix properties on a wide range of mechanical properties of dental composites with irregular fillers. The results can be used to direct the design of such materials to achieve the desired mechanical properties.

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