Failure due to fatigue manifests itself in dental prostheses and restorations as wear, fractured margins, delaminated coatings, and bulk fracture. Mechanisms responsible for fatigue-induced failure depend on material ductility: Brittle materials are susceptible to catastrophic failure, while ductile materials utilize their plasticity to reduce stress concentrations at the crack tip. Because of the expense associated with the replacement of failed restorations, there is a strong desire on the part of basic scientists and clinicians to evaluate the resistance of materials to fatigue in laboratory tests. Test variables include fatigue-loading mode and test environment, such as soaking in water. The outcome variable is typically fracture strength, and these data typically fit the Weibull distribution. Analysis of fatigue data permits predictive inferences to be made concerning the survival of structures fabricated from restorative materials under specified loading conditions. Although many dentalrestorative materials are routinely evaluated, only limited use has been made of fatigue data collected in vitro: Wear of materials and the survival of porcelain restorations has been modeled by both fracture mechanics and probabilistic approaches. A need still exists for a clinical failure database and for the development of valid test methods for the evaluation of composite materials.
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