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Deflection fatigue of Ti-6Al-7Nb, Co-Cr, and gold alloy cast clasps

Ahmad Mahmoud, BDS,a Noriyuki Wakabayashi, DDS, PhD,b
Hidekazu Takahashi, DDS, PhD,c and Takashi Ohyama, DDS, PhDd
Division of Oral Health Sciences, Graduate School, Tokyo Medical and
Dental University, Tokyo, Japan
Statement of problem. There is little information about the deflection fatigue of clasps in relation to stress
distribution.
Purpose. The aim of this study was to investigate the fatigue resistance and permanent deformation of cast
clasps made of titanium and other dental alloys and to relate the fatigue resistance with the calculated stress
values.
Material and methods. Twenty-five Ti-6Al-7Nb, 25 Co-Cr, and 15 Type IV gold alloy clasps were subjected
to cyclic deflection of preset values of 0.25 mm, 0.50 mm, or 0.75 mm, for 106 cycles (n = 14). Finite element
models were created to calculate principal stresses within the specimens. Fatigue life, retentive force, and
permanent deformation were recorded, and the fracture locations were determined microscopically. The results
were characterized in relation to the stress within the clasps. One-way analysis of variance and Tamhane’s post-
hoc tests were used to compare the results of the 9 material-deflection groups (a=.05).
Results. Ti-6Al-7Nb clasps exhibited significantly less permanent deformation than the other clasps under
relatively greater deflections, indicating better adaptation to the tooth surface. However, the fatigue life of the
Ti-6Al-7Nb clasps under 0.75-mm deflection, with the stress above the alloy’s 0.2% yield strength, was
significantly shorter than those under smaller deflections. The gold clasps showed significantly longer fatigue life
than the other clasps under the 0.50-mm deflection. High-stress areas within the fatigue clasp specimens
coincided with the fracture locations. The probabilities of fatigue fracture and permanent deformation were
closely related to the material strengths and the preset deflections.
Conclusion. To minimize fatigue failures, the cast clasp should be designed with consideration of the stresses
distributions within the clasps. (J Prosthet Dent 2005;93:183-8.)

CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS
The Ti-6Al-7Nb and gold clasps demonstrated fatigue resistance that allows placement in
undercut greater than 0.25 mm, which is suitable for Co-Cr alloy clasps. These clasps may be
indicated when esthetics or periodontal health is a primary concern.

T i-6Al-7Nb alloy has been developed as an alterna-
tive to Co-Cr and other existing removable partial den-
good resistance to abrasion, and other advantages for
relatively low cost.1-4 Like other titanium alloys, the
ture alloys because it offers excellent biocompatibility, Ti-6Al-7Nb alloy has an elastic modulus that is approx-
imately half of Co-Cr alloy, which increases its flexibil-
ity.5 The increased flexibility allows the retentive clasp
This study was supported by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research,
12771170 (N.W.) and 14571840 (N.W.), from The Ministry of
arms to be placed into larger undercuts on abutments
Education, Science, and Culture of Japan. Presented at the 110th than Co-Cr alloy clasps, and this may be important
Scientific Meeting of the Japan Prosthodontic Society, Nagano, when esthetics or periodontal health is a primary con-
Japan, October 2003. cern.
Presented at the 82nd General Session and Exhibition of the Clasps undergo permanent deformation and fatigue
International Association for Dental Research; an Arthur R.
Frechette Research Award Finalist, Hawaii, March, 2004.
fracture under repeated flexures caused by denture in-
a
Resident, PhD student, Removable Prosthodontics, Department of sertion and removal and mastication.6-9 The fatigue
Masticatory Function Rehabilitation. life of cast clasps made of commercially-pure titanium
b
Research associate, Removable Prosthodontics, Department of was reported to be shorter than that of Co-Cr and
Masticatory Function Rehabilitation. gold alloy clasps.5 However, the fatigue fracture and
c
Associate Professor, Advanced Biomaterials, Department of Re-
storative Sciences, Division of Oral Health Sciences.
permanent deformation of cast clasps made of titanium
d
Professor and Chair, Removable Prosthodontics, Department of alloy has not been sufficiently assessed in relation to
Masticatory Function Rehabilitation. stress distribution, and little is known about how these

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THE JOURNAL OF PROSTHETIC DENTISTRY MAHMOUD ET AL

(Degulor M; Degussa), both with a phosphate-bonded
investment (Biosint-supra; Degussa). The compositions
and material properties of these alloys are shown in
Table I. The Ti-6Al-7Nb was cast using argon arc melt-
ing technology with a centrifugal vacuum pressure cast-
ing machine (Valcan-T; Shofu, Kyoto, Japan). The Co-Cr
alloy was cast using high-frequency induction melting
technology with a centrifugal casting machine (SA-2000;
Sankin, Tokyo, Japan). The gold alloy was cast using
electric resistance melting technology with a centrifugal
casting machine (TS3; Degussa). The casting proce-
dures were determined following the manufacturers’ in-
structions for the metals and investments. Recovered
castings were lightly cleaned with airborne-particle abra-
sion using 80-mm aluminum oxide particles. Each gold
Fig. 1. A, Schematic illustration of fatigue test specimen. alloy clasp was heat-treated according to the manufac-
Specimen consists of clasp arm, loading sphere, and plate for turer’s instructions.
fixation to testing machine. B, Finite element model of clasp
arm. Dimensions of each model were based on test specimen. Fatigue test
Twenty five Ti-6Al-7Nb, 25 Co-Cr, and 15 gold al-
clasps would function in long-term clinical use. loy cast specimens were divided into different experi-
Permanent deformation and fatigue fracture are caused mental groups according to preset clasp tip
by the stress created in the clasp.10,11 The stress distribu- deflections, 0.25 mm, 0.50 mm, and 0.75 mm, which
tion may depend on the elastic modulus of the alloy, di- were designed to compare the clasps’ functions under
mensions and curvature of the clasp,12,13 and the different undercuts to the tooth surfaces. The 3 groups
amount and direction of defection in relation to the of the Ti-6Al-7Nb clasps based on deflections were de-
abutment undercut.14 noted by codes T25 (n = 5), T50 (n = 10), and T75
The purpose of this in vitro study was to investigate (n = 10). The 3 groups of Co-Cr clasps denoted by
the fatigue of the Ti-6Al-7Nb clasps compared to C25 (n = 5), C50 (n = 10), and C75 (n = 10), and
Co-Cr and gold alloy clasps. The fatigue life, retentive G25 (n = 5), G50 (n = 5), and G75 (n = 5) were used
force, and permanent deformation of clasps under cyclic for the gold alloy clasps. Each specimen was fixed to
deflections of different magnitudes were evaluated, and the testing machine with screws and subjected to a sinus-
deflection fatigue was characterized in relation to the oidal cyclic deflection generated by the radial direction
stress distributions within the clasps. force at the tip of each clasp arm at a frequency of 5 Hz.
The load/deflection curve was monitored, and the test
was terminated when the maximum force was reduced
MATERIAL AND METHODS
to less than 15% of the initial load, or when 106 cycles15
A metal cylinder with a 10-mm outer diameter was were completed. The permanent deformation was
used for the adaptation of a pre-formed tapered wax pat- calculated as the difference in piston tip-loading sphere
tern (Rapid-Flex; Degussa, Dusseldorf, Germany). The distance between the position at the beginning of each
clasp arm pattern originated from a plate and curved cycle and the position at the first cycle. The actual deflec-
around the cylindrical surface 120 degrees in a single tion was thereafter obtained by subtracting the perma-
plane (Fig. 1, A). Average width and thickness of the nent deformation from the preset deflection. One-way
clasp arm at 30 degrees were 0.92 mm and 0.97 mm, re- analysis of variance (ANOVA) and Tamhane’s T216,17
spectively, while those at 120 degrees were 0.73 mm and post-hoc tests were conducted to determine the differ-
0.79 mm, respectively. The plate served as an attach- ences in the permanent deformations, applied forces,
ment for fixation to a fatigue-testing machine (250N; and number of loading cycles between the 9 material-de-
Shimadzu Corp, Kyoto, Japan). The original pattern flection groups were significant or not. After the fatigue
was duplicated using a split mold to make acrylic resin test, an optical microscopic (VH-5000; Keyence Corp,
patterns (Pattern resin, GC, Tokyo, Japan). A spherical Osaka, Japan) examination was performed to locate the
bead 0.5 mm in diameter was glued onto the inner fracture site in each clasp specimen.
surface of each clasp tip to provide a point of force appli-
Finite Element Analysis
cation. The patterns were invested and cast using Ti-
6Al-7Nb (T-alloy Tough; GC) with a magnesia-based By the use of the preprocessor of the finite element
investment (Selevest CB; Kobelco, Hyogo, Japan), method (FEM) computer software (ANSYS 7.1 FEM;
Co-Cr (Biosil L; Degussa) and a Type IV gold alloy ANSYS Inc, Canonsburg, Pa), a 3-dimensional finite

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Table I. Composition and mechanical properties of alloys evaluated
Ti-6Al-7Nb Co-Cr Type IV gold

Composition (wt %) 86.5 Ti, 7 Nb, 6 Al, 62.5 Co, 30.5 Cr, 5 Mo, 1 Si, 70 Au, 4.4 Pt, 13.5 Ag, 8.8 Cu,
0.5 others 0.4 Mn, 0.3 C, 0.3 N 2 Pd, 0.1 Ir, 1.2 others
Modulus of elasticity (GPa) 123 220 90
0.2% Proof stress (MPa) 890 710 620
Tensile strength (MPa) 950 900 740
Percentage elongation (%) 5 6 17
All data were based on information provided by manufacturer for each respective material except for modulus of elasticity of Type IV gold alloy.18 Note: recorded
yield strength value is affected by offset value and can be substantially different from proportional limit.24

element model for each fatigue test clasp was created
based on the width and thickness of each specimen,
which were measured at 7 representative locations using
a measuring microscope (MM-60; Nikon, Tokyo,
Japan) (Fig.1, B). Each model was meshed by 8-node
hexahedral elements. In the simulation, each clasp tip
was displaced by the average of actual deflections in
the radial direction while the base area at the clasp’s
shoulder was fixed. Elastic moduli of 90 GPa,18 220
GPa, and 123 GPa (Table I) were input into the pro-
gram to simulate the gold, Co-Cr, and Ti-6Al-7Nb al-
loys, respectively. A Poisson ratio of 0.33 was used for
all of the alloys.19 The friction coefficient between the
rod and the clasp surface was assumed to be 0.2.14 The
principal stress distribution within each clasp model
was calculated using the post processor of the FEM Fig. 2. Fatigue life distributions of specimens as function of
computer software. number of cycle. Each vertical line segment represents clasp
specimen. Bar with asterisk was considered outlier and not
included in statistical analysis. Left superscript letters of each
RESULTS test group represents homogeneous subsets resulting from
post-hoc comparison. Each subset represents groups with
Fatigue resistance
insignificant differences. (P>.05).
Figure 2 displays the fatigue life of each specimen. For
each test group, a representative specimen was chosen, of the post-hoc comparison between the 9 material-
and its permanent deformation and force required for deflection experimental groups are shown in Figure 2
deflection are respectively shown in Figures 3 and 4 as and Table II. It should be noted that one C50 clasp
functions of loading cycles. In the early stage, instant with the exceptionally greater number of cycles to failure
increases in permanent deformations were recorded for was considered an outlier and was excluded from the sta-
all specimens. Thereafter, all of the clasps with 0.25- tistical analysis (Fig. 2). Postoperative microscopic ob-
mm deflections, except for 1 Co-Cr clasp, sustained con- servations indicated that the fracture sites of all of the
stant forces and permanent deformations and survived failed clasps were located between 48 and 91 degrees
106 cycles without fracture. One Co-Cr clasp with from the clasp arm shoulder, with a mean value of 71
a 0.25 mm deflection and all of the other clasps with 6 11 degrees (Fig. 5). There were no significant differ-
larger deflections also sustained almost constant forces ences in the fracture sites among the 9 test groups.
and permanent deformations after the early stages.
Finite element analysis
However, those clasps that fractured before the 106
cycles demonstrated sudden force decreases accompa- In the finite element models, the sites where the max-
nied by dramatic deformation increases shortly before imum principal stresses occurred were located between
fracture. The average numbers of loading cycles for fail- 39 and 85 degrees from the clasp shoulder, with an
ure, the average loads for deflection, and the average average of 70 6 11 degrees. The average principal stress
permanent deformations are listed in Table II. distribution for each test group is illustrated in Figure 6.
One-way ANOVA showed that the differences in load The stress values detected between 35 and 90 were
required for deflection, the permanent deformation, and relatively constant and above 85% of the maximum
the number of cycles to failure among the 9 material-de- stress. There were no significant differences in the sites
flection test groups were significant (P,.05). The results of the maximum stress among the clasp materials or

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Table II. Means (standard deviations) of fatigue test and FEM results
Material
Preset deflection
(mm) Ti-6Al-7Nb Gold alloy Co-Cr

Test group code / Number of specimens* 0.25 T 25 / 5 G 25 / 5 C 25 / 5
0.50 T 50 / 9 G 50 / 5 C 50 / 8
0.75 T 75 / 9 G 75 / 4 C 75 / 9
Cycles to failure 0.25 No failure No failure 4 did not fail
0.50 22,469(9,876) 120,500(18,014) 28,929(10,358)
0.75 2,875(1,000) 32,375 (8,845) 15,806 (5,312)
Permanent deformation (mm)** 0.25 9.6 (4.0) a 13.4 (2.4) a, b 14.0 (3.5) a, b
0.50 27.4 (3.9) c 40.0 (8.9) b, c, d 114.4 (12.7) e
0.75 64.7 (11.4) d 132.0 (9.6) e 298.1(21.2) f
Load to deflection (N) 0.25 6.0 (0.8) 6.3 (0.8) 12.0 (0.9)
0.50 13.9 (1.9) 12.3 (1.4) 21.0 (1.6)
0.75 21.9 (1.8) 18.5 (1.9) 25.9 (2.9)
Max. principal stress (MPa)*** 0.25 362 (17) 296 (14) 640 (23)
0.50 706 (47) 559 (27) 1095 (52)***
0.75 1070 (26)*** 773 (23)*** 1254 (56)***
*Exclusion of some specimens due to errors in testing is reason for deviation of number of specimens from originally assigned 5 or 10 specimens.
**Subscript letters (a to f) indicate homogeneous subsets resulting from post-hoc test. Insignificant difference in mean permanent deformation was evidenced
among groups of identical subset (P>.05).
***Recorded maximum stress value exceeding respective material’s 0.2% yield strength.

Fig. 3. Change of permanent deformation for representative Fig. 4. Load required for deflection as function of deflection
specimen from each group. Solid lines: Ti-6Al-7Nb clasps; cycles for representative specimen from each group. Solid
dotted lines: gold alloy clasps; dashed lines: Co-Cr clasps. lines: Ti-6Al-7Nb clasps; dotted lines: gold alloy clasps;
dashed lines: Co-Cr clasps.

among the preset deflections. The average maximum vantageous due to low rigidity when compared to the
principal stresses calculated are shown in Table II. Co-Cr clasps, which is expected to have a minimum pos-
sibility of traumatic overloading to the abutment tooth
during insertion and removal.12 Fatigue fracture is com-
DISCUSSION
monly believed to occur at cyclic stress levels much lower
Based on the loads required to deflection, both Ti- than that needed to cause failure on a single application
6Al-7Nb and Type IV gold alloy would be clinically ad- of load.19 However, it was previously claimed that the

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Fig. 5. Fractured Co-Cr specimen tested under 0.50 mm Fig. 6. Average principal stress distribution for each test
preset deflection with enlarged view. group. Each volume was divided into 9 different colors
according to stress levels. Red zone indicates greatest stress
region (tension), blue zone indicates smallest. Scales below
Co-Cr alloy could withstand a stress slightly above its show maximum and minimum scale values, as well as
proportional limit without failure over infinitely many boundary values between levels. Bold numbers indicate
cycles.20 Results of the present study were not in conflict reported 0.2% yield strengths (Table I).
with this claim. Four out of 5 Co-Cr clasps tested under
0.25-mm preset deflections, which had maximum ten-
sile stresses (average of 640 MPa) slightly below the al- N for T75) than the other materials tested because of
loy’s reported 0.2% yield strength (Fig. 6), survived the greater yield strength of the Ti-6Al-7Nb alloy.
over 106 cycles. However, all of the other Co-Cr clasps This provides the Ti-6Al-7Nb clasps better resistance
under larger preset deflections with stresses above the to permanent deformation, which is advantageous in
yield strength failed long before reaching 106 cycles. situations of accidental overloading.9,22
All of the Ti-6Al-7Nb and gold alloy clasps with 0.5- Greater permanent deformation of Co-Cr clasps led
mm deflections and maximum stresses below the mate- to reduction of the actual deflections, and this contrib-
rials’ yield strengths failed before reaching 106 cycles. uted to the extension of the fatigue lives because smaller
Furthermore, the fatigue lives of Ti-6Al-7Nb clasps un- actual deflections would reduce the maximum tensile
der 0.75 mm deflection, with the maximum calculated stress within the clasps.12 Permanent deformation was
stress above its yield strength, remarkably decreased. observed in the clasps that had maximum stresses below
These results indicate that the fatigue limits of these al- the yield strengths of the alloys (Table II). It is suspected
loys are well below their yield strengths. that these deformation values were partially due to the
At relatively high deflection amounts, the material surface flattening of the load application sphere at the
differences greatly affected the magnitude of the perma- clasp tip, which was confirmed in postoperative micro-
nent deformations of the clasps. The Ti-6Al-7Nb clasps scopic observations.
had considerably smaller permanent deformations when Although the calculated average maximum principal
compared to the Co-Cr clasps under all preset deflec- tensile stresses in clasps of the C50, C75, T75, and
tions greater than 0.25 mm. They also showed much G75 groups exceeded the yield strengths of the respec-
smaller permanent deformations than the gold alloy tive alloys (Table II), no specimen in these groups failed
clasps under the 0.75 mm deflection. This may be be- during the first cycle, and all survived at least 1500
cause of the material’s high ratio of yield strength to elas- cycles. The permanent deformations did not have nota-
tic modulus,21 which indicates a relatively larger working ble increases after the first few cycles, and the deforma-
range (7.24 for the Ti-6Al-7Nb, 3.23 for Co-Cr, tions remained stable until just before fracture. The
and 6.89 for gold alloy). These results indicate better residual stresses and strain hardening induced by the
adaptation of Ti-6Al-7Nb clasps to tooth surfaces permanent structure deformations after the deflection
when designed to engage undercuts greater than can explain these findings.19,23 The residual stresses
0.25 mm. A relatively higher load was needed to gen- generated in the clasp after the first few cycles should
erate a larger permanent deformation in the clasp (21.9 have comprised compressive stress on the inner surface

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THE JOURNAL OF PROSTHETIC DENTISTRY MAHMOUD ET AL

and the tensile stress on the outer surface of the 3. Iijima D, Yoneyama T, Doi H, Hamanaka H, Kurosaki N. Wear properties
of Ti and Ti-6Al-7Nb castings for dental prostheses. Biomaterials 2003;24:
clasp.19,23 Besides strain hardening, these stresses could 1519-24.
further increase the clasp’s apparent yield strength and 4. Kobayashi E, Wang TJ, Doi H, Yoneyama T, Hamanaka H. Mechanical
resistance to further permanent deformation.19,23 It properties and corrosion resistance of Ti-6Al-7Nb alloy dental castings.
J Mater Sci Mater Med 1998;9:567-74.
should also be noted that the stresses were calculated 5. Vallittu PK, Kokkonen M. Deflection fatigue of cobalt-chromium, tita-
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11. Gapido CG, Kobayashi H, Miyakawa O, Kohno S. Fatigue resistance of
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were found to be within the range where the stress was 2003;90:261-9.
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cantly greater resistance to permanent deformation
under cyclic deflections. The results of the fatigue ana- Reprint request to:
DR NORIYUKI WAKABAYASHI
lyses suggest that the Ti-6Al-7Nb and gold clasps are REMOVABLE PROSTHODONTICS, DIVISION OF ORAL HEALTH SCIENCES
suitable for use with undercuts greater than 0.25 mm. GRADUATE SCHOOL, TOKYO MEDICAL AND DENTAL UNIVERSITY
However, a reduction in the fatigue resistance of the 1-5-45 YUSHIMA, BUNKYO
TOKYO 113-8549
Ti-6Al-7Nb clasp was clear when the tensile stress within JAPAN
the clasp exceeded its yield strength. FAX: 181-3-5803-584
E-MAIL: wakabayashi.rpro@tmd.ac.jp
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0022-3913/$30.00
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