OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to determine the effect polymerization contraction stress may have on bond durability. METHODS: Bonding effectiveness was assessed by micro-tensile bond strength testing (muTBS) and electron microscopy. The muTBS to flat dentin surfaces and in standardized cavities was determined (this after 1 day as well as 1 year water storage). Six adhesives representing all current classes were applied: two etch-and-rinse (OptiBond FL, Kerr; Scotchbond 1, 3M ESPE), two self-etch (Clearfil SE Bond, Kuraray; Adper Prompt, 3M ESPE) and two glass-ionomer (Fuji Bond LC, GC; Reactmer, Shofu) adhesives. RESULTS: The conventional 3-step etch-and-rinse adhesive OptiBond FL bonded most effectively to dentin, and appeared insensitive to polymerization shrinkage stress and water degradation. The 2-step self-etch adhesive Clearfil SE Bond most closely approached this superior bonding effectiveness and only slightly lost bond strength after 1-year water exposure. The 2-step etch-and-rinse adhesive Scotchbond 1 and the 'strong' 1-step self-etch adhesive Adper Prompt appeared very sensitive to cavity configuration and water-aging effects. The 2-step resin-modified glass-ionomer adhesive Fuji Bond LC only suffered from shrinkage stress, but not from 1-year water-exposure. Remarkable also is the apparent repairability of the 'mild' 1-step glass-ionomer adhesive Reactmer when stored for 1 year in water, in spite of the very low 1-day muTBS. SIGNIFICANCE: Simplified bonding procedures do not necessarily imply improved bonding performance, especially in the long term.