Validation of finite element models for orthodontic aligners

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Purpose: Clear thermoplastic aligners have become popular in orthodontics, but the biomechanics of these devices is not well understood. Neither is the tooth movement induced by such devices. The aim of this study was to develop and validate finite element (FE) models for clear thermoplastic teeth aligners for orthodontic force prediction. Methods and materials: FE models were created from Micro-CT scans of an aligner and a model arch of teeth with one of the incisors tipped buccal-lingually by 2.4°. The models were uniformly meshed with 0.3-mm long elements. Linear-elastic mechanical properties provided by the material manufacturers were used. Fitting of the two components was simulated using Abaqus's interference fit, followed by frictional surface-to-surface interaction. The assembled FE model was validated by comparing its prediction for the teeth-aligner gaps and aligner surface strains with experimental data. The experimental teeth-aligner gaps were obtained from the Micro-CT scans whereas the aligner surface strains were measured using a 2-camera digital image correlation (DIC) system. Results: Good agreement between prediction and measurement was obtained for both the teeth-aligner gaps and aligner surface strains. The linear regression between prediction and measurement for teeth-aligner gaps sampled at different positions had a R2 value of 0.99. The mean difference between prediction and measurement for the aligner surface strains (von Mises) over 1544 nodes on the labial side and 1929 nodes on the lingual side was 0.07% and 0.01%, respectively, both being lower than the mean background noise. Conclusion: A FE model for clear thermoplastic teeth aligners has been successfully developed and validated. The model can therefore be used with confidence to predict the forces and moments applied to teeth by the aligners, thus improving our understanding of the biomechanics of such devices and the tooth movement they induce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105404
JournalJournal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials
StatePublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to 3M OCSD, USA for financial support of this work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Digital image correlation (DIC)
  • Finite element models
  • Micro-CT
  • Orthodontic aligners
  • Validation

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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