Hardness of Dental Materials

–– Hardness is defined as the ability of a material to resist scratching.
–– Can be divided into microhardness and macrohardness.

Tests for Microhardness:
- Knoop Hardness Test
- Vickers Hardness Test

Tests for Macrohardness:
- Brinell hardness
- Rockwell hardness

1. Brinell Hardness Test

  • Oldest test employed for determining the hardness of metals
  • A hardened steel ball is pressed under a specified load into the polished surface of a material. The load is divided by the area of the projected surface of the indentation, and the quotient is referred to as the Brinell hardness number, usually abbreviated as BHN.
  • For a given load, the smaller the indentation, the larger is the number and the harder is the material.
  • Used extensively for determining the hardness of metals and metallic materials used in dentistry
  • It is related to the proportional limit and ultimate tensile strength of dental gold alloys.

2. Rockwell Hardness Number 

  • Is somewhat similar to Brinell test in that a steel ball or a conical diamond point is used
  • Instead of measuring the diameter of the impression, the depth of penetration is measured directly by a dial gauge on the instrument
  • Neither the Brinell test for the Rockwell test is suitable for brittle materials.
3. Vickers Hardness Test

  • Employs the same principle of hardness testing as Brinell test
  • Instead of a steel ball, a diamond in the shape of a square based pyramidal is used
  • The lengths of the diagonals of the indentation are measured and averaged
  • The Vickers test is employed in the ADA specifications for dental casting gold alloys
  • Suitable for determining the hardness of brittle materials
  • Used for measuring the hardness of tooth structure
4. Knoop Hardness Test
  • Employs a diamond indenting tool that is cut in the geometric configuration
  • The impression is rhombic in outline, and the length of the largest diagonal is measured
  • The hardness value is virtually independent of the ductility of the material tested.
5. Shore and Barcol Test
  • Are employed for measuring the hardness of dental materials, particularly rubbers and plastics


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