Computer aided finite element model for biomechanical analysis of orthodontic aligners
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Objectives: To design a finite element (FE) model that might facilitate understanding of the complex mechanical behaviour of orthodontic aligners. The designed model was validated by comparing the generated forces — during 0.2-mm facio-lingual translation of upper left central incisor (Tooth 21) — with the values reported by experimental studies in literature. Materials and methods: A 3D digital model, obtained from scanning of a typodont of upper jaw, was imported into 3-matic software for designing of aligners with different thicknesses: 0.4, 0.5, 0.6, 0.7 mm. The model was exported to Marc/Mentat FE software. Suitable parameters for FE simulation were selected after a series of sensitivity analyses. Different element classes of the model and different rigidity values of the aligner were also investigated. Results: The resultant maximum forces generated on facio-lingual translation of Tooth 21 were within the range of 1.3–18.3 N. The force was direction-dependent, where lingual translation transmitted higher forces than facial translation. The force increases with increasing the thickness of the aligner, but not linearly. We found that the generated forces were almost directly proportional to the rigidity of the aligner. The contact normal stress map showed an uneven but almost repeatable distribution of stresses all over the facial surface and concentration of stresses at specific points. Conclusions A validated FE model could reveal a lot about mechanical behavior of orthodontic aligners. Clinical relevance: Understanding the force systems of clear aligner by means of FE will facilitate better treatment planning and getting optimal outcomes.