Assessment of Elemental Composition, Microstructure, and Hardness of Stainless Steel Endodontic Files and Reamers

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The purpose of this study was to determine the elemental composition, microstructure, and hardness of commercially available reamers, K files, and H files. Five instruments of each type from different manufacturers (Antaeos, FKG, Maillefer, Mani, and Micromega) were embedded in epoxy resin along their longitudinal axis. After metallographic grinding and polishing, the specimens were chemically etched and their microstructure investigated under an incident light microscope. The specimens were studied under a scanning electron microscope, and their elemental compositions were determined by energy dispersive X-ray microanalysis. The same surfaces were repolished and X-ray diffraction was performed. The same specimen surface was used for the assessment of the Vickers hardness (HV200) by using a microhardness tester with a 200-g load and 20-s contact time. The hardness results were statistically analyzed with two-way ANOVA and Tukey's test (a = 0.05). All files demonstrated extensively elongated grains parallel to longitudinal file axis because of cold drawing. The elemental composition of Maillefer and Mani reamers, Antaeos K files, and Mani H files were found in the range of AISI 303 SS, whereas all the rest were determined as AISI 304 SS. Two different phases (austenite SSt and martensite SSt) were identified with X-ray diffraction for all files tested. The results of hardness classified reamers in the following decreasing order (HMV200): Micromega = 673 ± 29a, Mani = 662 ± 24a, Maillefer = 601 ± 34b, Antaeos = 586 ± 18b, FKG = 557 ± 19c, and the K files (HV200): FKG = 673 ± 16a, Mani = 647 ± 19a, Maillefer = 603 ± 41b, Antaeos = 566 ± 21cb, Micromega = 555 ± 15c, and the H files (HMV200): Mani = 640 ± 12a, FKG = 583 ± 31b, Maillefer = 581 ± 5b, Antaeos = 573 ± 3b, Micromega = 546 ± 14b. Although only two stainless steel alloys were used for the production of endodontic files, the differences in hardness are independent to the alloys used, implying that other factors, such as the production method or the thermomechanical history of the alloys, play an important role on the mechanical properties of endodontic files.

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