October 20, 2022
Dr. Miryam Schuckar, Global Scientific Affairs Manager

3 Reasons to Choose Universal Adhesives

You have a lot of options when it comes to your dental adhesive. Discover what sets universal adhesives apart and what these innovative materials can bring to your procedure – and your practice.

When it comes to dental adhesives, dentists are spoiled for choice. And while having many adhesive options may seem like a blessing, it often leads to confusion and frustration. Bond strength, technique compatibility, ease-of-use, curing method, financial constraints, training time – with so many variables to consider, how do you make the right choice? Thankfully, the decision doesn’t have to be complicated.

Enter universal adhesives.

Since their inception, universal adhesives have proven to be a strong, reliable, and versatile class of materials that can help simplify procedures, inventory, and more. These unique materials streamline the bonding process by reducing the number of products you and your staff need to master and keep in stock. And fewer products mean fewer steps and simpler procedures. While universal adhesives aren’t new, they continue to present opportunities for the modern dental practice – including three specific benefits.

Reason #1: Simplicity.

Sometimes less really is more.

While earlier generations of adhesives required multiple bottles and steps to achieve adequate bonds, universal adhesives are engineered to do more on more surfaces and in more types of restorations – in fewer steps. This means less information to memorize and less room for error. As Dr. Marcos Vargas, D.D.S., said about switching to universal adhesives, “Instead of changing instructions every time, I want to have one set of instructions that I [can] use properly. We know the practitioner is more likely to remember what to do when you have a single step instead of multiple steps.”

Universal adhesives as a class are designed to:
• Bond to many dental surfaces
• Work in the etch mode of your choice: total-etch, self-etch, or selective-etch
• Deliver strong bonds
• Work in both direct and indirect restorations
• Offer all-in-one-bottle convenience, with no need for a separate primer
• Result in virtually no postoperative sensitivity

Simplicity and versatility are incredibly appealing to the modern dental practice. According to Dr. Vargas, “I wanted to have one adhesive that works with both [direct and indirect restorations] and with which I was comfortable and used daily.” By taking away the variables associated with multiple steps and bottles, you help simplify your workflow and inventory. Plus, with fewer products to keep track of, you reduce the risk of tossing redundant or expired materials.

In addition, some modern universal adhesives provide additional benefits. For example, 3M™ Scotchbond™ Universal Plus Adhesive bonds and seal caries-affected dentin to give you confidence when performing minimally invasive preparations. All of this adds up to a material class that helps simplify workflows, streamline inventory, and enable a more conservative dental philosophy.

Reason #2: Strong science in action.

Adhesive dentistry has gone through many evolutions since its inception; with each change, we’ve been able to leverage new scientific developments to solve pain points in our practices and help our patients get the best results possible. As such, patients trust their dentists to stay up to date on the latest innovations. This is where universal dental adhesives shine.

Universal adhesives can be trusted to deliver a great bond because of the science that goes into them. 3M universal adhesives, for example, owe their versatility and one-bottle system to three-part “VMS” technology:

Vitrebond™ Copolymer: A proprietary methacrylate-modified polyalkenoic acid copolymer that lends moisture tolerance to the adhesive formula, guaranteeing strong bonds to moist or dry dentin in the total-etch technique. Plus, it helps reduces postoperative sensitivity and technique sensitivity.
Methacryloxydecyl Phosphate (MDP) Monomer: A well-known phosphate monomer that enables self-etch application, the ability to bond with zirconia and alumina, and stability requiring no refrigeration.
Silane: An active and stable silane allows for bonding to glass ceramic without the need for an extra silane primer.

Scientific innovation also enables new features to be added to universal adhesives. In the case of Scotchbond Universal Plus Adhesive, of a new BPA derivative-free, crosslinking radiopaque monomer enables a dentin-like radiopacity – helping to prevent X-ray misdiagnosis and overtreatment. While some dental adhesives achieve radiopacity with radiopaque fillers that can settle in the bottle, Scotchbond Universal Plus Adhesive remains homogeneously mixed, which helps ensure that every drop of adhesive has the same properties. With this in mind, universal adhesives continue to evolve, creating more opportunities to benefit from scientific development –and more reasons to add these innovative materials to your practice.

Schematic formula of the radiopaque resin, X = heavy element, enabling radiopacity, with X-rays of extracted human molars with Class I restorations, featuring intentional adhesive pooling. Filling material 3M™ Filtek™ One Bulk Fill Restorative. 3M internal data, H. Loll et al., J Dent Res 99 (Spec Iss A): No. 757, 2020

Reason #3: Create positive patient experiences.

In addition to creating healthy, beautiful smiles, dental professionals want their patients to have the best experience possible. And while being friendly goes a long way, the materials you choose make a difference – including your adhesive.
Postoperative sensitivity is the last outcome you want from a restorative procedure but can be difficult to predict or avoid. However, certain materials, like universal adhesives, are designed to help reduce the risk. The water- and ethanol-based solvent in 3M’s universal adhesives, for example, decreases the incidence of postoperative sensitivity to almost zero [fig 1]. In other formulations, when the solvents evaporate, the collagen layer can overdry, causing dentin fibers to collapse, which leads to sensitivity. The water in 3M universal adhesives’ solvent system, however, rehydrates collagen, preventing this issue.

Beyond sensitivity, every dental professional wants their hard work to last as long as possible. However, the success of a restoration depends on the strength of its adhesive bonds. When bonds fail, both dentists and patients suffer the consequences. Thankfully universal adhesives provide gold standard adhesion to many dental and restorative substrates, reducing the risk of inconvenient return visits for repair or replacement. This not only protects your patients and your reputation, but it helps save the time and cost associated with failed restorations.

Figure 1: Results of a 3M field evaluation. 120 clinicians measured the incidence of postoperative sensitivity in more than 8,500 direct applications of 3M™ Scotchbond™ Universal Adhesive.1


Adhesive dentistry has gone through many evolutions since its inception, and with each change, we’ve found new ways to simplify processes, solve pain points, and help give our patients the best results possible. While each material brings something different to the table, universal adhesives provide one additional benefit: a robust clinical history. Dental professionals want products they can trust to work safely and as intended, and that comes with testing and time. The availability of detailed scientific documentation, positive experience reports, and – most importantly – long-term clinical studies are a good indicator of how a product may perform over the years.2,3

3M™ Scotchbond™ Universal Adhesive, for example, is not only the world’s first universal adhesive but also the industry’s most researched and clinically proven universal adhesive – with more than 4500 published reviews, laboratory investigations, and clinical study results available. Moreover, Scotchbond Universal Adhesive is the first universal adhesive with published five-year findings from clinical studies. Its successor, Scotchbond Universal Plus Adhesive (launched in 2020), takes universal adhesives to the next level. It keeps all the benefits of the original while adding even greater control and predictability – because a good adhesive should not be measured by bond strength alone. With all of this in mind, universal adhesives are a clinically proven class of dental adhesives that make use of innovative science to provide simplicity, versatility, and reliability – and simply can’t be overlooked.

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