The use of numerical methods, such as finite element method (FEM), has been widely adopted in solving structural problems with complex geometry under external loads when analytical solutions are unachievable. Basic idea behind FEM is to divide the complex body geometry into smaller and simpler domains, called finite elements, and then to formulate solution for each element instead of seeking a solution for the entire domain. After finding the solutions for all elements they can be combined to obtain a solution for the whole domain. This numerical method is mostly used in engineering, but it is also useful for studying the biomechanical properties of materials used in medicine and the influence of mechanical forces on the biological systems. Since its introduction in dentistry four decades ago, FEM became powerful tool for the predictions of stress and strain distribution on teeth, dentures, implants and surrounding bone. FEM can indicate aspects of biomaterials and human tissues that can hardly be measured in vivo and can predict the stress distribution in the contact areas which are not accessible, such as areas between the implant and cortical bone, denture and gingiva, or around the apex of the implant in trabecular bone. Aim of this paper is to present - using results of several successful FEM studies - the usefulness of this method in solving dentistry problems, as well as discussing practical aspects of FEM applications in dentistry. Some of the method limitations, such as impossibility of complete replication of clinical conditions and need for simplified assumptions regarding loads and materials modeling, are also presented. However, the emphasis is on FE modelling of teeth, bone, dentures and implants and their modifications according to the requirements. All presented studies have been carried out in commercial software for FE analysis ANSYS Workbench.
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