Quartz- and barium-glass-filled composites aged for more than one year in ethanol experienced a significant reduction in fracture toughness (KIc), essentially identical to that experienced after two months of aging. This reduction is mainly attributed to a softening of the resin matrix, but cracking within the resin and at the filler/ matrix interface, as revealed by SEM microscopy, may also have contributed. No significant cracking could be seen in the composites aged in water. Composites post-cured at temperatures approaching their glass-transition temperature also experienced a reduction in KIc after alcohol storage. Storage in water for one year had little effect on the KIc of composites cured at oral temperatures, but a significant increase was observed for those post-cured at elevated temperatures. This increase is difficult to explain, but appears to involve a filler/matrix interfacial phenomenon, because it was not observed in the unfilled resin. The results of this study demonstrate that an alteration in the fracture resistance and some degradation of the filler/matrix interface, as has been observed clinically, occur after long-term exposure of dental composites to certain solvents used as food-simulating liquids.
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