Objectives: Three-dimensional (3D) printing technology is a promising technique for fabricating custom orthodontic metallic appliances. Aim of this study was to assess the effect of intraoral aging on the mechanical / electrochemical properties of 3D-printed orthodontic metallic appliances.
Methods: Twelve molar orthodontic distalization appliances 3D-printed from cobalt chromium (Co-Cr) alloy were retrieved after intraoral use and twenty blocks fabricated under similar conditions were used as control. The samples' microstructural / elemental composition assessment was assessed with SEM/EDS, while their mechanical properties (modulus of elasticity [EIT], Martens hardness [HM] and the elastic index [ηIT]) were measured by instrumented indentation testing. Finally, the samples' electrochemical features were assessed with a potentiostat-connected cell arrangement in terms of open circuit potential (OCP), corrosion potential (Ez), current density (I300) and breaking potential (Epit). Results were analyzed by t-test / Mann-Whitney test (α = 0.05).
Results: The used Co-Cr alloy was found to have a highly homogenous structure with no significant differences between retrieved and new specimens in HM (4037.7 ± 215.6 vs 4090.9 ± 259.8 N/mm2), EIT (120.0 ± 13.2 vs 123.8 ± 12.9 GPa), or nIT (28.4 ± 2.6 vs 28.6 ± 2.9 %) (P > 0.05 in all instances). Metallic surfaces retained the same oxidation tendency and oxide dissolution rate in passive region in both groups (P > 0.05 for OCP, Ez, and I300). However, intraorally-aged specimens had a significantly lower breakdown potential due to degraded protection efficacy of surface oxide (P = 0.003 for Epit).
Significance: The tested 3D-printed Co-Cr orthodontic appliances present clinically-acceptable mechanical properties that remained unaffected by intraoral ageing, which however degraded the protection of surface oxide against pitting corrosion.
Keywords: 3D printing; Co-Cr alloys; Corrosive resistance; Electrochemical behavior; Intraoral ageing; Orthodontic appliances.