The deformations of orthodontic appliances used for space closure are large so that any mathematical analysis will require a nonlinear approach. Existing incremental finite element and finite difference numerical methods suffer from excessive computational effort when analyzing these problems. An accurate segmental technique is proposed to handle these difficulties in an extremely efficient fashion. The segmental technique starts by assuming that an orthodontic appliance is composed of a number of smaller segments, the ends of which undergo small relative rotation. With an appropriate choice of local coordinate system the equilibrium equations for each segment are linearized and solved in a straightforward manner. The segments are then assembled using geometric and force compatibility relations similar to the transfer matrix method. Consequently, the original nonlinear boundary value problem is solved as a sequence of linear initial value problems which converge to the required boundary conditions. As only one segment need be considered at a time, the computations can be performed accurately and efficiently on a PC type computer. Although an iterative solution is used to match the boundary conditions, the time required to solve a given problem ranges from a few seconds to a couple of minutes depending on the initial geometric complexity. The accuracy of the segmental technique is verified by comparison with an exact solution for an initially curved cantilever beam with an end load. In addition, comparisons are made with existing experimental and numerical results as well as with a new set of experimental data. In all cases the segmental technique is in excellent agreement with the results of these other studies.

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