Journal of Prosthodontics
Purpose: The aim of this study was to perform a failure analysis on fractured prosthetic retaining screws after long‐term use in vivo. Additionally, the study addresses the commonly asked question regarding whether complex repeated functional occlusal forces initiate fatigue‐type cracks in prosthetic retaining screws.
Materials and Methods: Ten fractured prosthetic retaining screws retrieved from three patients treated with fixed detachable hybrid prostheses were subjected to a failure analysis. In patients 1 and 2, the middle three retaining screws of the prostheses were found fractured at retrieval time after they had been in service for 20 and 19 months, respectively. In patient 3, the middle three and one of the posterior retaining screws were found to be fractured at retrieval after they had been in service for 18 months. Low power stereomicroscopy and high‐power scanning electron microscopy (SEM) were performed to analyze the fractured surfaces of the retaining screws examining fatigue cracks in greater detail.
Results: Typical fatigue failure characterized by ratchet mark formation was revealed by light microscopy and SEM for all examined screws. Using low magnification light microscopy, ratchet marks were visible on the fracture surfaces of only two screws. SEM examination revealed all three classical stages of fatigue failure, and it was possible to see the ratchet marks on the fracture surfaces of all specimens, indicating a fatigue zone. The final catastrophic overload fracture appeared fibrous, indicating ductile fracture. The final overload ductile fracture surfaces showed equiaxed dimples, suggesting tensile overload in all examined screws except in two specimens that showed an elongated dimple pattern indicating shear/tearing overload forces.
Conclusions: Fracture of prosthetic retaining screws in hybrid prostheses occurs mainly through a typical fatigue mode involving mostly the middle anterior three screws. Fatigue cracks can grow in more than one prosthetic retaining screw, leading to fracture before the patient or clinician determines that any problem exists.