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Dental adhesion with resin composites: a review and clinical tips for best practice


Modern restorative dentistry would not be possible without the ability to bond to tooth structure. The development of dental adhesives has a lengthy gestation, from the beginnings around 1950, to the latest generation: modern universal adhesives, which were introduced during the 2010s. The foundation for these developments was a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of adhesion to the tooth structure, and to restoration materials. Typically, the performance of an adhesive does not depend on the use of a single ingredient, but on an overall balanced and optimised formulation that contains various components with different roles, such as functional adhesive monomers.

While a wealth of literature exists on adhesives that have a long and successful clinical history ('gold standards'), some universal adhesives have also accumulated a lot of scientific evidence while offering benefits like ease of use, low technique sensitivity and versatility.

To achieve reliable results with a modern adhesive, several tips should be kept in mind regardless of the product, which result in a homogeneous adhesive layer, proper cure and ultimately high bond strength. Although high performance is already achieved with the adhesives currently available, this is still an exciting area of ongoing research.

Key points

  • Explains history and different classifications of contemporary adhesives, and modes of interaction with enamel, dentine and restoration materials.

  • Provides information on selecting an adhesive and tips for successful clinical application. Special attention is required for proper solvent evaporation, creation of a homogeneous adhesive layer and thorough light curing.

  • While current and future developments include useful features like radiopacity or improved bond strength, caution should be used around products promising faster and easier application, or 'bioactivity'. Minimally invasive procedures may open up alternatives to conventional preparation and filling techniques.

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The author would like to thank Prof Mario de Goes, University of Campinas, Piracicaba, Brazil, for providing the photograph for Figure 4; Prof Graham Chadwick, University of Dundee, UK, for the opportunity to publish this paper and guidance in preparing the manuscript; and 3M Company for the permission to write this article.

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Authors and Affiliations



Dr Christoph Thalacker has a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Ulm, Germany. Since 2010, he is responsible for the development of dental adhesives at 3M Oral Care, Seefeld, Germany. He conducted the literature search and wrote this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Christoph Thalacker.

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The author is a full-time employee of 3M Deutschland GmbH.

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Thalacker, C. Dental adhesion with resin composites: a review and clinical tips for best practice. Br Dent J 232, 615–619 (2022).

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