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Most applications of materials in

dentistry have a minimum
mechanical property requirement .
Certain materials should be
sufficiently strong to withstand biting
forces without fracture, others should
be rigid enough to maintain their
shape under load.

Stress: When an external force is applied to

a body or specimen of material under test,
an internal force, equal in magnitude but
opposite in direction, is set up in the body.

Stress = F/A
where F is the applied force
A the cross-sectional area
A stress resisting a compressive force is
referred to as a compressive stress and
that resisting a tensile force a tensile

Tensile and compressive

stresses, along with shear, are
the three simple examples of
The unit of stress is the pascal

One test method commonly used for

dental materials is the three-point
bending test or transverse test.
Stress = 3FL

When a cylinder of a
brittle material is
compressed across a
diameter, a tensile stress
is set up in the specimen,
the value of the stress
being given by
Stress = 2F

at the axis of cylinder

A diametral compressive
tensile test is commonly used
when conventional tensile
testing is difficult to carry out
due to the brittle nature of the
test material.

Fracture stress strength:

There is a limit to the value of applied
force which a body, or specimen of
material, can withstand without fracturing.
In a tensile test, the fracture stress is
referred to as the tensile strength of a
material whilst a compression test gives a
value of compressive strength.

Strain: The application of

an external force to a
body or test specimen
results in a change in
dimension of that body.
Strain = Change in length
Original length

The strain may be recoverable

or the material may remain
deformed. A third possibility is
that the strain may be partially

Stress-strain relationship:
Stress and strain are not independent
and unrelated properties, but are
closely related.
The application of an external force,
producing a stress within a material,
results in a change in dimension or
strain within the body.

The relationship between stress and

strain is often used to characterize
the mechanical properties of
Such data are generally obtained
using a mechanical testing machine.

It can be seen that in

this example there is a
linear relationship
between stress and
strain up to the point P.
Further increases in
stress cause
proportionally greater
increases in strain until
the material fractures
at point T.

The stress corresponding to point T

is the fracture stress.
In a tensile test this gives a value of
tensile strength, whilst in a
compression test value of
compressive strength is obtained.
The value of stress which
corresponds to the limit of
proportionality P, is referred to as
the proportional limit.

Point E is the elastic

limit. This corresponds
to the stress beyond
which strains are not fully
The proportional limit
is often used to give an
approximation to the
value of the elastic limit.

The slope of the straight-line portion

of the stress-strain graph gives a
measure of the modulus of

Modulus of elasticity =

It gives an indication of the rigidity of

a material and not its elasticity.
A steep slope giving a high modulus
value, indicates a flexible material.

The value of strain recorded

between points E and T indicates the
degree of permanent deformation
which can be imparted to a material
up to the point of fracture.
For a tensile test this gives an
indication of ductility whilst for a
compressive test it indicates

A ductile material can be

bent or stretched by a
considerable amount
without fracture whereas
a malleable material can
be hammered into a thin
A property often used to
give an indication of
ductility is the elongation
at fracture.

The area beneath the curve up

to the elastic limit, gives a value
of resilience.

Resilience may be defined as the

energy absorbed by a material in
undergoing elastic deformation up to
the elastic limit.
The energy is stored and released
when the material springs back to its
original shape after removal of the
applied stress.

The total area under the stress-strain

graph, gives an indication of
toughness and may be defined as
the total amount of energy which a
material can absorb up to the point
of fracture.

A material capable of absorbing

large quantities of energy is
termed a tough material.
The opposite of toughness is

Notched specimens are generally

used to determine the property
known as fracture toughness.

Fracture toughness effectively gives a

value of the work of creating two new
surfaces when cracking occurs.
The equations used to calculate
fracture toughness should strictly only
be applied to materials which fail by a
purely brittle mechanism.

Materials are more likely to behave in

a more brittle fashion when stress or
strain are increased rapidly.
When the stress is increased very
rapidly it may termed an impact test
and the important practical property
obtained is the impact strength.

The position reached by the

pendulum after fracturing the
specimen gives a measure of the
energy absorbed by the specimen
during fracture.

Impact strength is an important

property for acrylic denture base
materials which have a tendency to
fracture if accidentally dropped onto
a hard surface.

Fatigue properties:
Many materials which are used as
restoratives or dental prostheses are
subjected to intermittent stresses over
a long period of time.
The stresses encountered may be far
too small to cause fracture of a

Failure may occur by a fatigue

This involves the formation of a
microcrack, this crack slowly
propagates until fracture occurs.
Final fracture often occurs at quite a
low level of stress.

As the applied cyclic stress increases, the

number of cycles to failure decreases.

Fatigue properties may be studied in one

of two ways:
1. It is possible to apply cyclic stress at a
given magnitude and frequency and to
observe the number of cycles required
for failure. The result is often referred to
as the fatigue life of a material.
2. Selection of given number of the cyclic

stress which is required to cause fracture

within this number of cycles. The result in
this case is referred to as the fatigue

One of the most important factors

involved in such tests is the quality of the
specimen used in the test.
Stress concentrations within materials
can occur to an extent where cracks can
propagate to cause failure within the
normal lifetime of the material.

Abrasion resistance:
Wear can occur by one or more of a
number of mechanisms.
Wear caused by indenting and
scratching of the surface by abrasive
wear .

Wear due to intermittent stresses is

termed fatigue wear.
Wear of certain materials can often
be attributed to chemical degradation.
Such processes are often referred to
as erosion processes.

Hardness: The hardness of a material gives

an indication of the resistance to penetration
when indented by a hard asperity.
The value of hardness, often referred to as
the hardness number.
Generally, low values of hardness number
indicate a soft material and vice versa.

Common methods used for hardness

evaluation include Vickers, Knoop,
Brinell and Rockwell.

Vickers and Knoop both involve the

use of diamond pyramid indentors.

In the case of Vickers hardness,

the diamond pyramid has a square base,
whilst for Knoop hardness, one axis of the
diamond pyramid is much larger than the
The brinell hardness test involves the
use of a steel ball indentor producing an
indentation of circular cross-section.

The hardness is a function of the diameter

of the circle for Brinell hardness and the
distance across the diagonal axes from
Vickers and Knoop hardness.
Measurements are normally made using a
The case of Rockwell hardness, a direct
measurement of the depth of penetration
of a conical diamond indentor is made.

Hardness is often used to give an

indication of the ability to resist
Hardness is also used to give an
indication of the abrasion resistance
of a material.

Elasticity and viscoelasticity:

The elastic limit is the value of stress
beyond which the material becomes
permanently distorted.
Although elastic limit is an important
property it does not fully characterize the
elastic properties of a material.
Elastic properties are often defined in
terms of the ability of a material to
undergo elastic recovery.

When a material undergoes full elastic

recovery immediately after removal of an
applied load it is elastic.
If the recovery takes place slowly, or if a
degree of permanent deformation
remains, the material is said to be

Models involving the use of springs and

dashpots can be used to explain the
elastic and viscoelastic behavior of

This type of behavior has important

practical significance for many dental
Elastic materials become distorted when
being removed over undercuts.
The permanent deformation depends on
the applied load and the time for which
that force is applied.

Creep and stress relaxation are

two other phenomena which can be
explained using the viscoelasticity
Creep involves a gradual increase in
strain under the influence of a
constant applied load similar to that
which takes place in the Maxwell

Stress relaxation involves the

application of a constant strain.
Stress relaxation is a measure of
decreasing stress at constant strain.
Under such conditions the stress
decreases as a function of time for
Maxwell-type viscoelastic materials.
Creep tests have more practical
significance for dental materials.

A constant load is applied to a test

specimen in either compression or
The strain or creep is measured as a
function of time.
Dynamic creep tests are also carried out.

Rheological properties
Rheology is the study of the flow or
deformation of materials.
A study of the rheological properties of
liquids and pastes normally involves the
measurement of viscosity.
Viscosity () is given by the equation:

Shear stress ()
Shear rate (E)

Further characterization of the

rheological properties of materials is
obtained by reference to the
Shear stress = K (Shear rate)

Viscosity values of materials are

Time-dependence of viscosity
(working times and setting times):
Manipulation becomes impossible
when viscosity has increased beyond
a certain point.

The time taken to reach that point is

the working time of the material.
The setting time is to the time taken
for the material to reach its final set
state or to develop properties which
are considered adequate for that