R-curve behavior and toughening mechanisms of resin-based dental composites: Effects of hydration and post-cure heat treatment

M. B. Shah, J. L. Ferracane, J. J. Kruzic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Objectives: To test the hypothesis that the fracture resistance of two different particulate resin composites degrade after water hydration and improve after post-cure heat treatment, and to correlate those changes with salient failure micromechanisms. Methods: Two composites with different filler morphology were selected, denoted microhybrid (Filtek™ Z250) and nanofill (Filtek™ Supreme plus). Following initial light curing, hydrated samples were aged in water for 60 days at room temperature while post-cured samples were heat treated at 120 °C for 90 min. Fracture resistance was assessed using fracture resistance curves (R-curves) utilizing pre-cracked compact tension, C(T), specimens. The flexural strength of the hydrated composites also was evaluated in four-point bending using unnotched beams. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of crack paths and fracture surfaces was performed to determine the micromechanisms of fracture and toughening. The results were compared by two-way ANOVA and Tukey's multiple comparison test (p ≤ 0.05). Results: SEM observations revealed a predominantly interparticle matrix crack path for all cases except the hydrated nanofill composite, which showed evidence of particle matrix debonding. Hydration lowered the strength for both composites and the peak toughness for the nanofill composite. The strength decrease was attributed to resin matrix plasticization and hydrolytic degradation in both cases, with additional interfacial degradation causing a larger strength decline and concomitant peak toughness decrease in the nanofill composite. The post-cure heat treatment noticeably changed the R-curve shape causing the peak toughness to be reached after shorter amounts of crack extension. Such changes help explain the increases in strength reported in other studies and is attributed to improved resin matrix properties. Significance: Results from this study provide new insight into the micromechanisms of fracture in resin-based dental composites which should aid the future development and improvement of these materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)760-770
Number of pages11
JournalDental Materials
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2009


  • Crack bridging
  • Fracture
  • Hydration
  • Post-cure
  • R-curve
  • Resin composite
  • Toughening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • General Dentistry
  • Mechanics of Materials


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