Objectives: The exposure reciprocity law (ERL) has been used to calculate the optimal irradiation time of dental composites. This study examined the applicability of ERL for fast polymerization of restorative composites containing various photoinitiating systems using a high-power multi-peak light-emitting diode (LED) lamp.
Methods: Three commercial composites differing in photoinitiating systems were tested: Filtek Ultimate Universal Restorative (FU) with a camphorquinone-amine (CQ-A) photoinitiating system, Tetric EvoCeram (TEC) with CQ-A and (2,4,6-trimethylbenzoyl)phosphine oxide (TPO), and Estelite Σ Quick (ESQ) with CQ and a radical amplified photopolymerization (RAP) initiator. Specimens 2-mm thick were polymerized using a high-power multipeak LED lamp (Valo) at 3 pairs of radiant exposures (referred to as low, moderate, and high) ranging from 15.8–26.7 J/cm2. They were achieved by different combinations of irradiation time (5–20 seconds) and irradiance (1300–2980 mW/cm2) as determined with a calibrated spectrometer. Knoop microhardness was measured 1, 24, and 168 hours after polymerization on specimen top (irradiated) and bottom surfaces to characterize the degree of polymerization. The results were statistically analyzed using a three-way analysis of variance and Tukey’s post hoc tests, α = 0.05.
Results: Microhardness increased with radiant exposure and except for ESQ, top-surface microhardness was significantly higher than that on bottom surfaces. Combinations of high irradiance and short irradiation time significantly increased the top-surface microhardness of TEC at low and moderate radiant exposures, and the bottom-surface microhardness of FU at a low radiant exposure. In contrast, the microhardness of ESQ on both surfaces at high radiant exposure increased significantly when low irradiance and long irradiation time were used. With all tested composites, bottom-surface microhardness obtained at low radiant exposure was below 80% of the maximum top-surface microhardness, indicating insufficient polymerization.
Conclusion: Combinations of irradiance and irradiation time had a significant effect on microhardness, which was affected by photoinitiators and the optical properties of composites as well as spectral characteristics of the polymerization lamp. Therefore, ERL cannot be universally applied for the calculation of optimal composite irradiation time. Despite high irradiance, fast polymerization led to insufficient bottom-surface microhardness, suggesting the necessity to also characterize the degree of polymerization on the bottom surfaces of composite increments when assessing the validity of ERL.