BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Povidone-iodine [polyvinylpyrrolidone-iodine complex (PVP-I)] is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent, frequently used in dentistry. In this study we investigated the short- and longterm effects on osteoblast number, viability, and function after short exposure to PVP-I with and without additional bone-morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2). MATERIAL AND METHODS: Confluent osteoblast-like cell line (MC3T3-E1, subclone 24) cultures were exposed to pure PVP-I solution (7.7 mg/ml) and dilutions of 1:10, 1:100 and 1:1000 for 10 seconds and washed with phosphate buffer solution. Cell proliferation and viability was determined by MTT and differentiation status by alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity 6 days after initial plating. In a separate experiment, long-term cell proliferation, viability and function were assessed 4 weeks after PVP-I treatment by MTT and deposited calcium using an Alizarin-red staining test. RESULTS: PVP-I decreased ALP activity substantially. Stimulation by BMP-2 recovered ALP activity to near control levels at 1:100 and 1:1000 dilutions of PVP-I. The MTT assay showed reduced proliferation of the preosteoblastic cells for all treatments, irrespective whether BMP-2 was used or not. Only at PVP-I dilutions of 1:1000 proliferation rate was back to normal levels (95.6+/-2.4 %). No adverse long-term effect of PVP-I on mineralization of the extracellular matrix (Alizarinred) for dilutions higher than 1:100 was observed. Interestingly, undiluted and 1:10 diluted PVP-I even showed a significant increase in mineral deposition, especially in the presence of BMP-2. CONCLUSION: Short-time application of PVP-I in concentrations of 1:10 and higher lead to decreased viability and impaired differentiation. However, surviving cells showed good recovery and mineralization potential.