The setting of dental composites is accompanied by significant polymerization contraction, resulting in the generation of stresses within the material and at the tooth-restoration interface. These stresses can have a deleterious effect on marginal integrity if they exceed the adhesive strength of the restorative, as well as on the properties of the composite. It has been determined that several factors affect these stresses, including the polymerization rate of the composite, its formulation, including filler and monomer composition and the constraints imposed by the geometry of the cavity preparation. Many strategies have been developed to reduce the effect of these stresses. Changes in the formulation of the composite have included experimentation with a variety of stress relieving additives, modified catalyst compositions and alternative monomer systems. Modifications to the placement techniques have included the use of incremental curing, altered light activation schemes and resilient liners. This manuscript will review many of the important scientific and clinical issues relating to the generation and quantitation of the stresses produced in dental composites during curing.
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