SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.27 issue5Bond strength of self-adhesive resin cements to dry and moist dentinInfluence of the interposition of ceramic spacers on the degree of conversion and the hardness of resin cements author indexsubject indexarticles search
Home Pagealphabetic serial listing  

Services on Demand




Related links


Brazilian Oral Research

Print version ISSN 1806-8324

Braz. oral res. vol.27 no.5 São Paulo Sept./Oct. 2013 

Dental Materials

Evaluation of the adaptation of zirconia-based fixed partial dentures using micro-CT technology

Márcia  Borba(a) 

Walter Gomes  Miranda Jr.(b) 

Paulo Francisco Cesar(b) 

Jason Allan  Griggs(c) 

Álvaro Della  Bona(a) 

(a)Graduate Program in Dentistry, Dental School, Universidade de Passo Fundo - UPF, Passo Fundo, RS, Brazil.

(b)Department of Biomaterials and Oral Biochemistry, Dental School, Universidade de São Paulo - USP, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.

(c)Department of Biomedical Materials Science, Dental School, University of Mississippi Medical Center - UMMC, Jackson, MS, USA


The objective of the study was to measure the marginal and internal fit of zirconia-based all-ceramic three-unit fixed partial dentures (FPDs) (Y-TZP - LAVA, 3M-ESPE), using a novel methodology based on micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) technology. Stainless steel models of prepared abutments were fabricated to design FPDs. Ten frameworks were produced with 9 mm2 connector cross-sections using a LAVATM CAD-CAM system. All FPDs were veneered with a compatible porcelain. Each FPD was seated on the original model and scanned using micro-CT. Files were processed using NRecon and CTAn software. Adobe Photoshop and Image J software were used to analyze the cross-sectional images. Five measuring points were selected, as follows: MG - marginal gap; CA - chamfer area; AW - axial wall; AOT - axio-occlusal transition area; OA - occlusal area. Results were statistically analyzed by Kruskall-Wallis and Tukey's post hoc test (α= 0.05). There were significant differences for the gap width between the measurement points evaluated. MG showed the smallest median gap width (42 µm). OA had the highest median gap dimension (125 µm), followed by the AOT point (105 µm). CA and AW gap width values were statistically similar, 66 and 65 µm respectively. Thus, it was possible to conclude that different levels of adaptation were observed within the FPD, at the different measuring points. In addition, the micro-CT technology seems to be a reliable tool to evaluate the fit of dental restorations.

Key words: Computer-Aided Design; Denture, Partial, Fixed; Ceramics


The use of ceramic materials to produce large frameworks, such as those in three- and four-unit fixed partial dentures (FPDs), has been enabled by the introduction of CAD-CAM technology (computer-aided design-computer-aided manufacturing) in dentistry and by the development of high fracture toughness zirconia-based ceramics.1 Yttria partially stabilized tetragonal zirconia (Y-TZP) was initially introduced in the medical field as a hip implant material, due to its excellent mechanical performance and biocompatibility.2 In the dental clinic, Y-TZP ceramic is indicated as a framework material for crowns and large FPDs in both the anterior and posterior areas of the mouth.1

Y-TZP frameworks are produced using CAD-CAM technology, by milling partially or densely sintered pre-fabricated blocks. Milling densely sintered blocks produced by hot isostatic pressure (HIP) has the advantage of ensuring better adaptation of the final crown. However, milling hard structures is time-consuming and causes excessive wear of the milling burs. On the other hand, using partially sintered blocks increases the efficiency of the milling process. In such cases, the CAD-CAM system should produce larger restorations to compensate the sintering shrinkage, and to ensure adequate fit of the crown.3 - 5

The literature reports mean failure load values between 981 and 3480 N for three-unit Y-TZP FPDs,6 - 9 and values ranging from 706 to 1262 N for four-unit Y-TZP FPDs.10 , 11 In addition, clinical studies have showed low failure rates for Y-TZP restorations, i.e., about 2% to 6% after three to five years. The main causes of these clinical failures are secondary caries, loss of retention and chipping of the porcelain veneer.12 , 13 For this reason, restoration fit is an important factor for restoration prognosis, insofar as poor marginal adaptation results in dissolution of the luting agent and favors microleakage of bacteria and their byproducts, thus increasing tooth susceptibility to inflammation of the vital pulp, secondary caries, and marginal discoloration.14 - 16

The CAD-CAM technique uses a series of processing steps, such as scanning, software designing, milling and sintering, which may interfere with the precision of fit of the restoration. Although the sintering shrinkage of restorations obtained from partially sintered blocks can be compensated by milling enlarged restorations, it is not as yet clear whether this compensation is effective for the production of FPDs with long spans.4 , 17 In addition, previous studies reported that the internal adaptation of CAD-CAM restorations is poorer, compared with marginal adaptation.3 , 5 , 17 This finding represents a relevant clinical problem, insofar as wide internal gaps have been associated with decreased fracture strength and loss of retention of the restoration.18

There is no standard methodology to measure the marginal and internal adaptation of indirect restorations. Different techniques and tools are available to evaluate the restoration adaptation.19 - 22 Recently, a methodology involving micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) was proposed as a reliable and non-destructive technique to evaluate the internal and marginal adaptation of dental restorations. However, there are only few studies that use this methodology for this purpose in the dental field.5 , 23 , 24

The objective of this study was to measure the marginal and internal fit of zirconia-based all-ceramic three-unit FPDs, using a novel methodology based on micro-CT technology. The study hypothesis was that the gap width is similar at all measuring points.


Fixed partial denture

A stainless steel model simulating prepared abutment teeth was constructed with the following characteristics:

• 4.5 mm height,

• 6° taper and

• 120° chamfer as the finish line.5 , 7

The distance between the centers of the dies was 16 mm, corresponding to the distance between a lower second premolar and a lower second molar (10 mm span). An artificial gingiva was produced with acrylic resin (JET, Clássico, São Paulo, Brazil), and a polyvinyl siloxane impression of the model was taken (AquasilTM, Dentsply, Petrópolis, Brazil) using the double impression technique. A working die was made with type IV special CAD/CAM stone (CAM-base, Dentona AG, Dortmund, Germany).

The stone die was digitized by the LavaTM Scan non-contact, optical scanning system, and the FPD framework was designed by LAVATM Scan ST Design System (3M ESPE, St. Paul, USA). A uniform 20 µm cement spacer was used. The frameworks were milled with the LAVATM CNC 500 Milling Machine using LAVA Zirconia Frame pre-sintered Y-TZP material (Y-TZP - 3M ESPE, St. Paul, USA). The frameworks were sintered using the LAVATM Furnace 200 (3M ESPE, St. Paul, USA). Ten frameworks were produced with 9 mm2 connector cross-sections (Figure 1).

Figure 1  Zirconia framework on the metal dies. 

After milling, a bonding agent (Effect Bonder, Vita Zahnfabrik, Bad Sackingen, Germany) was applied to the framework and sintered according to the cycle recommended by the manufacturer. Vita VM9 porcelain (Vita Zahnfabrik, Bad Sackingen, Germany) was used to veneer the frameworks with a uniform thickness of approximately 1.2 mm around the crowns and pontic, and 0.6 mm around the connectors. The porcelain thickness was ascertained at 7 pre-determined points using a digital caliper, and polishing burs were used to ensure uniform thickness. A final porcelain glaze cycle was performed according to the instructions of the manufacturer.

Micro-CT scanning

Each FPD was seated on the original stainless steel model and scanned by the SkyScan 1172 micro-CT system equipped with a 10 megapixel camera (Skyscan, Aartselaar, Belgium). The scanning parameters were:

• accelerating voltage of 100 kV,

• current of 100 µA,

• exposure time of 2950 ms per frame,

• Al +Cu filter, and

• rotation step at 0.4° (180° rotation).

The x-ray beam was irradiated perpendicular to the preparation long axis, and the image pixel size was 17 µm. The x-ray projections were reconstructed using SkyScan's volumetric reconstruction software (Nrecon). Reconstructed slices were saved as a stack of BMP-type files. Beam hardening correction of 80% and ring artifact correction of 7 were used for the reconstruction. The scanning procedure was performed without cementation of the FPDs.

Gap measurements

CTAn software (Skyscan, Aartselaar, Belgium) was used to obtain cross-sectional images through the center of the die (x-axis), in the mesiodistal and buccolingual directions (Figure 2). This software made it possible to choose a region of interest (ROI) and the desired number of slices for the region selected. As a result, the number of slices could be standardized for all specimens, and the same slice-corresponding to the center of the crown, in both buccolingual and mesiodistal directions-was analyzed for each crown. These images were transferred to Adobe Photoshop software to delimit the internal space between the die and the crown, and Image J software was used to perform the measurements. All measurements were performed by a single examiner. The presence of small radiographic artifacts precluded the use of any automatic tool. Therefore, all measurements were taken manually, and the measuring points were standardized to minimize errors.

Figure 2  Cross-sectional images through the center of the die (x-axis), in the mesiodistal (A) and buccolingual directions (B). 

Five measuring points were selected5 (Figure 3):

Figure 3  Measuring locations: (1) MG; (2) CA; (3) AW; (4) AOT; (5) OA. 

• MG - marginal gap: perpendicular measurement from the internal surface of the crown to the margin of the die;25

• CA - chamfer area: 800 µm occlusal to the margin of the die;

• AW - axial wall: internal adaptation at the midpoint of the axial wall;

• AOT - axio-occlusal transition area: transition from the occlusal plateau to the axial wall;

• OA - occlusal area: 500 µm from the axio-occlusal angle in the direction of the center of the occlusal plateau.

Results from different measuring points were analyzed statistically using Kruskal-Wallis one-way analysis of variance on ranks and Tukey's test, at a significance level of 5%, since data failed the normality test.


Mean, median, minimum, maximum and standard deviation values (all in µm), as well as coefficient of variation (%) of the gap width for the different measuring points, are shown in Table 1. There were significant differences between gap dimensions obtained for the different measurement points (p < 0.001). MG showed the smallest median gap width. OA had the highest median gap dimension followed by the AOT point. The OA dimension was three times larger than that of the MG. CA and AW gap width values were statistically similar. The coefficient of variation values showed a small variation when different measuring points were compared, suggesting similar variability. This could be related to the reproducibility of the CAD-CAM technology, and also to the accuracy of the measuring methodology. Figure 4 shows the boxplot representing the gap width median and quartiles at each measurement point.

Table 1  Mean, median, minimum, maximum and standard deviation (SD) values of gap width for the measurement points (ìm), and coefficient of variation (CV). 

Location Mean Median* Min Max SD CV (%)
1. MG 47 42d 21 99 16 35
2. CA 69 66c 30 147 21 30
3. AW 65 65c 25 107 16 25
4. AOT 104 105b 33 188 30 29
5. OA 133 125a 75 226 35 26

*Values followed by the same small letter in the column are statistically similar (p > 0.05).

Figure 4  Boxplot of the gap width values at each measuring point (µm). 

No internal adjustment was made in the crowns. In addition, although the manufacturer recommends performing manual finishing before sintering takes place, no external finishing was conducted in the frameworks, thus explaining the slightly overextended margins observed in the cross-sectional images (Figure 2 and 3).


In the present study, different levels of adaptation were observed for the FPDs at the different measuring points. Thus, the study hypothesis was rejected, and it was demonstrated that the CAD-CAM technique used was unable to create a homogenous gap width along the tooth preparation, even though a uniform 20 µm cement spacer setting was used to produce the FPDs. This finding is in agreement with other studies that investigated the adaptation of Y-TZP FPDs produced with LAVA and other current CAD-CAM systems.3 , 5 , 17 , 20 An investigation also found significantly different mean gap values as a function of measurement location.3 The study reported that the occlusal gap width of LAVA three-unit framework was six times larger than the marginal gap width. Furthermore, a study that measured the gap width of all-ceramic FPDs produced with three different CAD-CAM systems (Digident, Cerec InLab and LAVA) also observed an increase in values from the marginal gap to the central measuring location.17 These differences in the adaptation level as a function of the location could be related to the quality of acquisition and processing of the digital data, and the diameter and shape of the milling instruments, as discussed below.3 , 26

The LAVA scanner acquires its optical impression by means of striation projection, which is susceptible to a few errors that could partially explain internal inaccuracies. First, the finite scanning resolution of the measuring system may result in slightly rounded edges, leading to premature contacts at the occlusal edges. To overcome this problem, the CAD-CAM manufacturer created a spacer parameter that can be applied to the restoration design with different thicknesses, allowing the customization of the internal gaps. Second, a physical phenomenon called "overshooters," which simulates virtual peaks near the edges, may also contribute to the increased internal discrepancy.17 , 26

In the present study, the marginal gap was the area of the FPD retainer that showed the best adaptation in comparison with all the other internal measurement points. There is a consensus between a series of studies that a marginal opening below 120 µm is clinically acceptable.3 , 27 , 28 In this study, a mean marginal gap of 47 µm was found, which is well below the clinical threshold. This is an important finding since the marginal adaptation is an important criterion for the success of all-ceramic restorations in the long term. A poor marginal adaptation may increase plaque retention and change the distribution of the microflora, which may induce the development of periodontal diseases. A large marginal gap is also related to a more rapid rate of cement dissolution, which is conducive to the percolation of food, oral debris and other substances that are potential irritants to the vital pulp.14 - 16 On the other hand, wider gaps are currently more accepted, in view of the evolution of adhesive luting materials and protocols.

Although there was an increase in the gap width from the margin to the occlusal area, the values observed for the internal regions of the retainers were still relatively low and were within the clinically acceptable limit. A study reported that a mean axial wall gap dimension of 122 µm could reduce the fracture strength of the crowns.18 In the present study, not only the axial wall but also the chamfer and axio-occlusal transition areas showed mean gap values below this threshold. It is important to produce restorations with a uniform cement space so as not to compromise the retention and resistance forms, especially for all-ceramic restorations that have a brittle behavior.29

Metal-ceramic restorations are the gold standard for prosthetic restorations, and there is a concern regarding the ability of CAD-CAM technology to produce restorations with such precision of adaptation. Studies that measured the marginal gap of three-unit metal-ceramic FPDs in vivo reported values between 67 to 85 µm.17 , 30 These values are slightly higher than the mean marginal gap value of the zirconia-based FPD investigated in the present study. This difference may also be related to differences in the gap measurement methodology and to the fact that the present study was carried out in the laboratory. However, the similarity between these marginal gap values suggested that CAD-CAM technology is able to produce high precision restorations, and all-ceramic FPDs may show comparable quality of adaptation in relation to metal-ceramic FPDs. The greater accuracy observed for the CAD-CAM systems in recent years may be attributed to improvements in technologies, software and milling strategies.3 Even when pre-sintered blocks are used, the sintering shrinkage is effectively compensated during the grinding process, which ensures an accurate final result.5

The micro-CT technique allows 2D and 3D investigation of the marginal and internal gaps within the range of a few micrometers.23 , 24 The asymmetric geometry of the FPD and the atomic elements present in the composition of the ceramic framework (zirconium) produced small artifacts in the cross-sectional images that precluded 3D analysis of the cement space. However, 2D analysis enabled accurate visualization of the all-ceramic FPD marginal and internal adaptation. The results obtained in the present study are in agreement with previous studies.3 , 17 , 20 The gap width values are within the values reported in the literature for LAVA CAD-CAM system FPDs, and small differences, such as those observed between the gap widths at different measuring points, could be detected. Thus, the micro-CT technology seems to be a reliable tool to evaluate FPD fit. Studies that applied the micro-CT technique to evaluate the adaptation of ceramic crowns also suggested that this method may be recommended as a useful tool for the evaluation of dental restorations.23 , 24


In the present study, different levels of adaptation were observed within the FPD, at different measuring points, thus rejecting the study hypothesis. The marginal gap had the smallest dimension and the occlusal area gap had the largest. Nevertheless, the adaptation values were within the clinically acceptable. In addition, micro-CT technology seems to be a reliable tool to evaluate the fit of dental restorations.


The authors acknowledge the Brazilian FAPESP (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo), CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico) and CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior) agencies for their funding, and the NIH-NIDCR (National Institutes of Health - National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research) for research grants DE013358 and DE017991. The authors also wish to thank Alberto Calasans for his collaboration (Alberto Calasans Laboratory, São Paulo, Brazil) and 3M ESPE.


1. Kelly JR, Benetti P. Ceramic materials in dentistry: historical evolution and current practice. Aust Dent J. 2011 Jun;56 Suppl 1:84-96. [ Links ]

2. Piconi C, Maccauro G. Zirconia as a ceramic biomaterial. Biomaterials. 1999 Jan;20(1):1-25. [ Links ]

3. Beuer F, Naumann M, Gernet W, Sorensen JA. Precision of fit: zirconia three-unit fixed dental prostheses. Clin Oral Investig. 2009 Sep;13(3):343-9. [ Links ]

4. Tinschert J, Natt G, Hassenpflug S, Spiekermann H. Status of current CAD/CAM technology in dental medicine. Int J Comput Dent. 2004 Jan;7(1):25-45. [ Links ]

5. Borba M, Cesar PF, Griggs JA, Della Bona A. Adaptation of all-ceramic fixed partial dentures. Dent Mater. 2011 Nov;27(11):1119-26. [ Links ]

6. Tinschert J, Natt G, Mautsch W, Augthun M, Spiekermann H. Fracture resistance of lithium disilicate-, alumina-, and zirconia-based three-unit fixed partial dentures: a laboratory study. Int J Prosthodont. 2001 May-Jun;14(3):231-8. [ Links ]

7. Sundh A, Molin M, Sjogren G. Fracture resistance of yttrium oxide partially-stabilized zirconia all-ceramic bridges after veneering and mechanical fatigue testing. Dent Mater. 2005 May;21(5):476-82. [ Links ]

8. Att W, Grigoriadou M, Strub JR. ZrO2 three-unit fixed partial dentures: comparison of failure load before and after exposure to a mastication simulator. J Oral Rehabil. 2007 Apr;34(4):282-90. [ Links ]

9. Beuer F, Steff B, Naumann M, Sorensen JA. Load-bearing capacity of all-ceramic three-unit fixed partial dentures with different computer-aided design (CAD)/computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) fabricated framework materials. Eur J Oral Sci. 2008 Aug;116(4):381-6. [ Links ]

10. Kohorst P, Herzog TJ, Borchers L, Stiesch-Scholz M. Load-bearing capacity of all-ceramic posterior four-unit fixed partial dentures with different zirconia frameworks. Eur J Oral Sci. 2007 Apr;115(2):161-6. [ Links ]

11. Luthy H, Filser F, Loeffel O, Schumacher M, Gauckler LJ, Hammerle CH. Strength and reliability of four-unit all-ceramic posterior bridges. Dent Mater. 2005 Oct;21(10):930-7. [ Links ]

12. Suarez MJ, Lozano JF, Paz Salido M, Martinez F. Three-year clinical evaluation of In-Ceram Zirconia posterior FPDs. Int J Prosthodont. 2004 Jan-Feb;17(1):35-8. [ Links ]

13. Della Bona A, Kelly JR. The clinical success of all-ceramic restorations. J Am Dent Assoc. 2008 Sep;139 Suppl:8S-13S. [ Links ]

14. Jacobs MS, Windeler AS. An investigation of dental luting cement solubility as a function of the marginal gap. J Prosthet Dent. 1991 Mar;65(3):436-42. [ Links ]

15. Bergenholtz G, Cox CF, Loesche WJ, Syed SA. Bacterial leakage around dental restorations: its effect on the dental pulp. J Oral Pathol. 1982 Dec;11(6):439-50. [ Links ]

16. Felton DA, Kanoy BE, Bayne SC, Wirthman GP. Effect of in vivo crown margin discrepancies on periodontal health. J Prosthet Dent. 1991 Mar;65(3):357-64. [ Links ]

17. Reich S, Wichmann M, Nkenke E, Proeschel P. Clinical fit of all-ceramic three-unit fixed partial dentures, generated with three different CAD/CAM systems. Eur J Oral Sci. 2005 Apr;113(2):174-9. [ Links ]

18. Tuntiprawon M, Wilson PR. The effect of cement thickness on the fracture strength of all-ceramic crowns. Aust Dent J. 1995 Feb;40(1):17-21. [ Links ]

19. Colpani JT, Borba M, Della Bona A. Evaluation of marginal and internal fit of ceramic crown copings. Dent Mater. 2013 Feb;29(2):174-80. [ Links ]

20. Reich S, Kappe K, Teschner H, Schmitt J. Clinical fit of four-unit zirconia posterior fixed dental prostheses. Eur J Oral Sci. 2008 Dec;116(6):579-84. [ Links ]

21. Molin M, Karlsson S. The fit of gold inlays and three ceramic inlay systems. A clinical and in vitro study. Acta Odontol Scand. 1993 Aug;51(4):201-6. [ Links ]

22. Lee KB, Park CW, Kim KH, Kwon TY. Marginal and internal fit of all-ceramic crowns fabricated with two different CAD/CAM systems. Dent Mater J. 2008 May;27(3):422-6. [ Links ]

23. Pelekanos S, Koumanou M, Koutayas SO, Zinelis S, Eliades G. Micro-CT evaluation of the marginal fit of different In-Ceram alumina copings. Eur J Esthet Dent. 2009 Autumn;4(3):278-92. [ Links ]

24. Seo D, Yi Y, Roh B. The effect of preparation designs on the marginal and internal gaps in Cerec3 partial ceramic crowns. J Dent. 2009 May;37(5):374-82. [ Links ]

25. Holmes JR, Bayne SC, Holland GA, Sulik WD. Considerations in measurement of marginal fit. J Prosthet Dent. 1989 Oct;62(4):405-8. [ Links ]

26. Pfeiffer J. Dental CAD/CAM technologies: the optical impression (II). Int J Comput Dent. 1999 Jan;2(1):65-72. [ Links ]

27. Kokubo Y, Ohkubo C, Tsumita M, Miyashita A, Vult von Steyern P, Fukushima S. Clinical marginal and internal gaps of Procera AllCeram crowns. J Oral Rehabil. 2005 Jul;32(7):526-30. [ Links ]

28. McLean JW, von Fraunhofer JA. The estimation of cement film thickness by an in vivo technique. Br Dent J. 1971 Aug 3;131(3):107-11. [ Links ]

29. May KB, Russell MM, Razzoog ME, Lang BR. Precision of fit: the Procera AllCeram crown. J Prosthet Dent. 1998 Oct;80(4):394-404. [ Links ]

30. Wettstein F, Sailer I, Roos M, Hammerle CH. Clinical study of the internal gaps of zirconia and metal frameworks for fixed partial dentures. Eur J Oral Sci. 2008 Jun;116(3):272-9. [ Links ]

Received: March 25, 2013; Revised: June 11, 2013; Accepted: June 27, 2013

Corresponding Author: Márcia Borba E-mail:

Creative Commons License This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.