An important disadvantage of current dental resin composites is polymerization shrinkage. This shrinkage has clinical repercussions such as sensitivity, marginal discoloration, and secondary caries. The objective of this study was to compare three filling techniques in terms of the transient stresses induced at the resin composite/tooth interface during polymerization. The techniques were: bulk filling (B), three horizontal increments (HI), and three wedge increments (WI). A simple Class V cavity preparation was modeled in finite element analysis. Polymerization shrinkage was simulated by a thermal stress analogy, thereby causing 1% shrinkage due to an arbitrary coefficient of thermal expansion. Interface normal and shear stresses were calculated at nine steps during polymerization, proceeding from 0% to 100% volume of cured resin. The importance of the interface transient stresses was revealed by the finding that, in most cases, their peak values exceeded the final or residual stress. Also, the WI and B techniques consistently exhibited the highest and lowest maximum transient stresses, respectively. These results from the simple model of a Class V restoration suggest that bulk filling of light-cured resin composites should be used in restorations which are sufficiently shallow to be cured to their full depth.
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