Objectives The present study evaluated the long-term dentine bonding effectiveness of five universal adhesives in etch-and-rinse or self-etch mode after 12 months of water-ageing. Methods The adhesives evaluated included All-Bond Universal, Clearfil Universal Bond, Futurabond U Prime&Bond Elect and Scotchbond Universal. Microtensile bond strength and transmission electron microscopy of the resin-dentine interfaces created in human coronal dentine were examined after 24 h or 12 months. Results Microtensile bond strength were significantly affected by bonding strategy (etch-and-rinse vs self-etch) and ageing (24 h vs 12 months). All subgroups showed significantly decreased bond strength after ageing except for Prime&Bond Elect and Scotchbond Universal used in self-etch mode. All five adhesives employed in etch-and-rinse mode exhibited ultrastructural features characteristic of collagen degradation and resin hydrolysis. A previously-unobserved inside-out collagen degradation pattern was identified in hybrid layers created by 10-MDP containing adhesives (All-Bond Universal, Scotchbond Universal and Clearfil Universal Bond) in the etch-and-rinse mode, producing partially degraded collagen fibrils with intact periphery and a hollow core. In the self-etch mode, all adhesives except for Prime&Bond Elect exhibited degradation of the collagen fibrils along the thin hybrid layers. The three 10-MDP containing universal adhesives did not protect surface collagen fibrils from degradation when bonding was performed in the self-etch mode. Conclusions Despite the adjunctive conclusion that bonds created by universal adhesives in the self-etch bonding mode are more resistant to decline in bond strength when compared with those bonds created using the etch-and-rinse mode, bonds created by universal adhesives are generally incapable of defying ageing.
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