What meaningful information are the instruments mechanical testing giving us? A comprehensive review

J. N. R. Martins, Rui Fernando Martins, Francisco Manuel Braz Fernandes, Emmanuel J. N. L. Silva

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Instruments mechanical strength and flexibility are traditionally tested by running cyclic fatigue, torsional, bending, buckling and microhardness tests. Several cyclic fatigue test models have been used in endodontics, all capable of providing a curved trajectory for the instrument to rotate. The cyclic fatigue testing allowed to identify conditions that may affect the fatigue strength outcomes, such as canal radius and degree of curvature, handpiece static vs dynamic motions, test temperature, kinematics, instrument previously wear and sterilization cycles, or instrument's size and metal alloy features. Due to the international test specifications for both torsional and bending tests, the variations of their models are not as many as for cyclic fatigue. These tests have also identified conditions capable of affecting the outcomes, such as kinematics, instrument's preloading, cross-sectional diameters, or alloy heat treatments. Buckling and microhardness are less common, with the metal alloy being considered to have a major influence on the results. Instruments mechanical testing, having all these individual conditions as independent variables, allowed to understand them and moulded the way the technical procedures are performed clinically. Even though the artificiality and simplicity of these tests will hardly mimic real working situations, and independently of being capable of producing cornerstone knowledge, these tests are also associated with inconsistency, lack of reproducibility and low external validity. Several attempts have been made to increase the generalizability of the outcomes by adding test settings that intend to mimic the clinical condition. Although pertinent, these settings may also add variabilities inherent to their concepts and practical applications in the laboratory environment. Although the actual studies should be seen as laboratory mechanical tests that measure very specific parameters under very particular conditions and that by far do not mimic the clinical condition, the lower validity drawback seems to be possible to be minimized when achieving a comprehensive understanding of the instrument behaviour. A Finite Elements Method and/or a multimethod research approach may lead to superior data collection, analysis, and results' interpretation, which when associated with a reliable confounding factors control and proper study designs may be helpful tools and strategies in order to increase the reliability of the outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)985-1004
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Endodontics
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


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