dental02.jpg (11342 bytes)Fundamentals of
Dental Materials

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Restorative Materials

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Definite and precise terms are used to describe the physical properties of dental materials. These terms must be clearly defined in order for one to understand the interrelationships between physical properties, structures, and composition. The following definitions apply to metals or alloys used in the Army dental service.

a. Hardness. Hardness is the measure of the resistance of a metal to indentation or scratching. It is an indication of the strength and wearability of an alloy or metal.

b. Ductility. Ductility is the measure of the capacity of a metal to be stretched or drawn by a pulling or tensile force without fracturing. This property permits a metal to be drawn into a thin wire.

c. Malleability. Malleability is the measure of the capacity of a metal to be extended in all directions by a compressive force, such as rolling or hammering. This property permits a metal to be shaped into a thin sheet or plate.

d. Flexibility and Elasticity. These terms differ in their technical definition but they are very closely related. Flexibility is the characteristic of a metal, which allows it to deform temporarily. The elasticity of a metal is used when it returns to its original shape when the load or force is removed.

e. Fatigue. Fatigue is the property of a metal to tire and to fracture after repeated stressing at loads below its proportional limit.

f. Structure (Crystalline or Grain Structure). Metals are crystalline and many of their physical properties depend largely upon the size and arrangement of their minute crystals called grains.

(1) Grain size. The size of the grains in a solidified metal depends upon the number of nuclei of crystallization present and the rate of crystal growth. In the practical sense, the faster a molten is cooled to solidification, the greater will be the number of nuclei and the smaller will be the grain size. Generally speaking, small grains arranged in an orderly fashion give the most desirable properties.

(2) Grain shape. The shape of the grains is also formed at the time of crystallization. If the metal is poured or forced into a mold before cooling, the grains will be in a flattened state. Metal formed by this method is known as cast metal. If the metal is shaped by rolling, bending, or twisting, the grains are elongated and the metal becomes a wrought wire.

g. Crushing Strength. Crushing strength is the amount of resistance of a material to fracture under compression.

h. Thermal Conductivity. Thermal conductivity is defined as the ability of a material to transmit heat or cold. A low thermal conductivity is desired in restorative materials used on the tooth whereas a high thermal conductivity is desirable where the material covers soft tissue.

David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: May 22, 2017