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Rotary Ni-Ti Files Physical & Mechanical Properties

Metallurgy of nickeltitanium alloys

Ni-Ti was developed 40 years ago by Buehler et al in the Naval Ordnance Laboratory (NOL) in Silver Springs, Maryland. The symbols of the metals were combined with the place of invention, creating the acronym NiTiNOL Using about 55 wt% Ni and 45 wt% Ti and substituting some Ni with less than 2 wt% Co, nearly the same number of Ni and Ti atoms are combined, being reflected in the term equiatomic. Another type is called 60 NiTiNOL and contains about 5% more nickel. It is used for some hand files but because of different properties (i.e. lower shape memory effect and increased heat treatability, together with increasing hardness) it seems to be less useful than the 55 NiTiNOL.

Phase Transformation of Ni-Ti Alloy

Austenite: (BCC) High Temperature Low stress Martensite: (Mono-Triclinic) Low Temperature High stress R-phase: Intermediate phase

This lattice organization can be altered either by temperature or stress. (Shape Memory Phenomena) This phenomenon may translate to the ability to remove any deformation within nickel titanium instruments by heating them above 125C. This ability of resisting stress without permanent deformation going back to the initial lattice form is called super elasticity. The super elasticity is most pronounced at the beginning, when first deformations of as much as 8% strain can be totally overcome (Spring-Back Phenomena). After 100 deformations, the tolerance is about 6% and after 100,000 deformations, it is about 4%.

Properties of Ni-Ti Files

Ni-Ti alloys overall are softer than stainless steel. Not heat treatable. Low modulus of elasticity (about one fourth to one fifth that of stainless steel). More resilient. Shape memory and super elasticity.

The Endurance Limit: It is the level of stress or strain at which a material can be subjected to without failure. At this limit, continued cycling of the material is unrestricted, and would not lead to failure. Clinically, the endurance limit, in torsion, is affected by the angle and radius of canal curvature. An increased angle or decreased radius significantly decreases the number of rotations/ cycles the instrument could withstand to fracture.

Manufacturing Process
Manufacture of files from Ni-Ti alloy promotes work hardening. The problem is: 1. Microstructural investigations based on X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy and microhardness tests revealed a high density of defects in the alloy that can disturb its phase transformation. 2. A variety of inclusions may become incorporated into the metal resulting in weaknesses at the grain boundaries through which cracks could propagate. 3. The machining often results in an instrument having an irregular surface characterized by milling grooves, multiple cracks, pits and regions of metal rollover.

All these sites may act as areas of stress concentration and crack initiation with eventual flexural failure during clinical use. How to overcome the above limitations: 1) Electropolishing: It is a controlled chemical process that minimizes surface defects & consequently may increase file longevity.

Electropolishing is hypothesized to improve torsional strength and cyclic fatigue resistance through levelling the grain boundaries and removal of surface pitting and machine grooves that can act as centres of fracture propagation. Herold et al showed that electropolishing did not inhibit the formation of microfractures. Cheung et al found that electropolishing did not protect the instrument from low cyclic fatigue failure. Bui et al found that electropolishing did not affect the torsional resistance because it does not affect the core of the material in which most of the mechanical properties reside. Overall, Electropolished instruments performed significantly better than nonelectropolished instruments in cyclic fatigue testing and, to a lesser extent, in static torsional loading. Electropolishing may have beneficial effects in prolonging the fatigue life of rotary Ni-Ti instruments. 2) Cryogenic treatment: It involves submersing metal in a super-cooled bath containing liquid nitrogen (-196 degree C/-320 degree F) and then allowing the metal to slowly warm to room temperature. This treatment creates a surface layer of titanium nitride which increases cutting efficiency in that the instrument becomes harder on the surface and thus more effective in its shaping ability but this increase was not detected clinically. 3) Ion implantation: This physical method uses an ion accelerator at low energy (100 to 400 keV) to introduce a known quantity of nitrogen atoms in the Ni-Ti target. Immediate application is possible on manufactured instruments ready for commercial use. There is an increase in the resistance to corrosion as a result of implantation. 4) Recent modifications introduced by several manufacturers: M-Wire (Dentsply Tulsa-Dental Specialties, Tulsa, OK) was developed, and the manufacturer states that a new thermal process is used to produce an alloy that

provides instruments with greater flexibility and increased resistance to cyclic fatigue compared to files constructed from the traditional nickel titanium alloy.

A completely different manufacturing process has been developed by SybronEndo (Orange, CA) to create a Twisted File (TF). It uses twisting of a ground blank in combination with heat treatment to enhance superelasticity and increase cyclic fatigue resistance.

Liberator files are manufactured using electro-chemical grinding (ECG) techniques. This process employs a liquid chemical that decreases the thermal impact of the grinding process.

Manufacturers are trying to improve the clinical performance of rotary Ni-Ti files through developing new design features and new manufacture processes regarding their physical and mechanical properties.

Design features:
1) Taper: We basically have two options when instrumenting a root canal. Firstly, Same taper but with varying apical tip diameters. Hand files that all have a consistent taper (.02) but with various tip diameters. A rotary file of constant taper would be the .04 taper (Profile, Liberator) that has a constant taper (.04) but has varying apical tip diameters.

Secondly, Varying or graduating tapers. These files have the same apical tip size but their taper varies from .04 to .12. GT series of files employs a varying taper. Quantec files use a graduated increase in taper. ProTaper that features a progressive taper along its shank.

The tendency of rotary instruments to lock and/or thread (screw) into the canal is enhanced when instruments with the same taper, but varying tip diameters, are wedged into the canal, possibly leading to torsional overloading of the instrument tip. Analysis of torque & force with different taper rotary instruments showed that instruments with different tapers offered the advantages of reducing the canal contact areas and decreasing both torsional and fatigue failure compared to instruments with a single taper. The idea is that each successive file is only engaging a minimal aspect of the canal wall. Therefore, frictional resistance is reduced and requires less torque to properly run the file. 2) Cross section: Studies showed that as the instruments cross sectional diameter increases, it becomes less resistant to cyclic fatigue, generate more torque during rotation hence time to fracture is decreased. Modified cross sections that offer increased cutting efficiency in addition to reduced contact areas (no or relieved radial lands) with canal walls reduce torsional loads as well as the magnitude of internal stresses generated inside the instrument. Cross sections of rotary systems differ from: The traditional triangular cs. (RaCe) Convex triangular cs. (ProTaper) Irregular cs. (K3)

The equilateral triangular cross-section is expected to show a lower torsional resistance than the convex triangular design because of the high stress concentration at the middle of each side, the distance between this point and the centroid of the cross-section being the shortest. In other words, the resistance of a rotary file to torsional failure is enhanced by increasing the inner-core diameter of the cross-section. 3) Radial lands: Radial land is a surface that projects axially from the central axis, between flutes, as far as the cutting edge.

It is the combination of a non-cutting tip and radial land that keeps a file centered in the canal. Previously, rotary files either had: Full Radial Lands (Profile, GT) Recessed radial Lands (Quantec)

Concept: The strength of the file comes from the inner core of the instrument, rather than and the peripheral area near the cutting blade. This part of the instrument is also called the radial land. The less blade support (the amount of metal behind the cutting edge) the less resistant the instrument is to torsional stress.




3) Cutting Tips: Aggressive vs. Non-Aggressive Tips Cutting tips on rotary files make them too aggressive. Yes, a cutting tip has the ability to enter narrow, somewhat calcified canals. But there are two serious concerns with a cutting tip, 1st, if you accidentally go long past the end of the tooth, Going long with a non-cutting tip will create a concentric circle at the end of the root. These are easily filled with a non-standardized cone. However, if you go long with a cutting tip, upon retraction of the file, you generally will create an elliptical tear. This is very difficult to repair and obturate. 2nd, If you place a cutting tip on a non-landed file, you have the distinct possibility of transportation. This is especially true if you hold the file at length for any period of time. Theoretically, a cutting tip will not transport if it goes to length and is immediately retracted. But, how many dentists hold a rotary file at length for less than a second? Some files claim to have modified cutting tips or partially active tips. Fine, but this is like being a little bit pregnant. Either it is a cutting tip or it is not.

4) Flute depth: Instruments with deep cutting flutes & progressively larger variable tapers exhibit changing cross-sectional diameters along the entire length These instruments develop high torque levels that make them more prone to metal fatigue and fracture. On the other hand, instruments that have shallow cutting flutes, evenly tapered shafts and consistently shaped cross-sectional areas are more resistant to torsional overload. This is because the torsional and bending stresses that develop during use are distributed uniformly along these instruments entire length. 5) Rake Angle: The rake angle of a rotary cutting flute is defined as the angle subtended by two intersecting lines. The first is a line drawn between the cutting tip and the geometric center of the instrument. The second is a line tangential to the curve of the cutting face at its tip.

Further studies are needed to evaluate the clinical benefits of a positive versus a negative rake angle instrument. Instruments with negative rake angles allow for planning rather than cutting of the dentinal walls. Thus more pressure is required when enlarging the canal in this manner, i.e. predisposition to torsional overload as well as to cyclic fatigue (Pro-Taper).

On the other hand, instruments with positive rake angles, which are marketed to provide better cutting efficiency, require less energy when enlarging the canal. However, excessive pressure can cause excessive torsion by forming chips that are too large to be dislodged. The K3 is the only third generation file to feature a slightly positive rake angle. This results in optimum cutting efficiency. 6) Helical Angle: It is the angle that the cutting edge makes with the long axis of the file. The first rotary file to take advantage of this factor was the GT. Constant Helical Angle: Allow debris to accumulate, particularly in the coronal part of the file. More susceptible to the effect of screwing in forces. Variable Helical Angle: By varying the flute angles, debris will be removed in a more efficient manner and the file will be less likely to screw into the canal.

Varying the helical angle along the length of the instrument affects its tendency to screw-in. If the angle is more closed at the tip and more open at the junction between the shank and the working part, this decreases the tendency of instrument to screwin which is considered a risk factor that predispose to torsional failure.

In K3, the helical angle increases from the tip to the handle. This allows for superior debris removal.

RaCe file, is unique and utilizes an alternating helical design by using spiraled and non spiraled portions along the working length. This reduces the tendency of the file to get sucked into the canal.





Non Helical Design: A unique manufacturing process for Liberator files eliminates the perpendicular microcracks resulting from the manufacturer of helical files. The absence of the traditional helical flutes in the Liberator files together is claimed by the manufacturer to reduce dentin contact areas with its subsequent improvement of torsional resistance.


7) Pitch: Pitch is the number of spirals or threads per unit length. Screws historically have had a constant pitch. The result of a constant pitch and constant helical angle is a pulling down or sucking down into the canal. Diemer and Calas found that increasing the pitch decreases the torsional stresses, and that short pitched instruments are twice as likely to screw-in as long pitched instruments which represent a clinical disadvantage. Long pitch reduces the helical angle which reduces the tendency of a file to screw-in.

The K3 file has a varied pitch that allows debris to effectively channel coronally. This is important not only during initial cleaning and shaping but also for retreatment

However, Instruments with a bigger pitch will have less number of threads. When torque is applied to the shank of the file, the stresses would be dissipated via the cutting edges (threads). Hence, a decrease in the pitch (more threads) could reduce the resolved shear stress at the clamped position. Instruments with a longer pitch and lower helical angle might have resulted in a greater resolved stress and hence a lower torsional resistance.

The manufacturing of a superior file is limited to the physical and the mechanical properties of the Ni-Ti alloy. The geometrical designs of the nickel-titanium rotary systems have a direct influence on their clinical performance.

1) Thompson SA.. International Endodontic Journal 2000 2) Uhn G, Tavernier B, Jordan L. J Endod 2001;27:516-20. 3) Valois, J Endod 2005; 31:8825. 4) Herold et al, J Endod 2007; 33:712 4. 5) Cheung et al, J Endod 2007; 33: 12171221 6) Bui et al, J Endod 2008; 34: 190 - 3. 7) GT Seriex X Brochure. Tulsa, OK: Dentsply Tulsa Dental Specialties; 2008 8) TF: The Twisted File Brochure. Orange, CA: SybronEndo; 2008. 9) Ullmann CJ, Peters OA. J Endod 2005;31:183 6. 10) Diemer F,,Calas P. J Endod 2004;30:716-18.