Several methods have been developed to evaluate attritional wear of restorative materials. A distinction was made between attritional wear in occlusal contact areas (OCA) and wear in contact-free occlusal areas (CFOA). Only limited data dealing with approximal wear in vitro are available. Using a new configuration of the computer-controlled masticator, approximal wear of two composites (P-50, 3M and Tetric Ceram, Ivoclar-Vivadent) was assessed in a two-body wear test after thermo-mechanical loading. Wear was quantified using a profilometer. In addition, micromorphology was assessed by SEM. Wear showed a non-linear pattern, which was comparable to occlusal abrasion. After the first loading cycle, wear increased significantly (p < or = 0.05), and subsequently decreased. After a 5-year-equivalent, the mean substance loss for composite specimens was 20.3 +/- 15.6 microns for P-50 und 17.5 +/- 3.1 microns for Tetric Ceram. Approximal wear between enamel surfaces was 3.9 +/- 4.3 microns. In another experiment, the influence of the approximal wear on an enamel bonding agent was assessed. After thermo-mechanical loading, specimens were immersed in a demineralisation gel. The protective potential of the sealant was assessed under a polarized light microscope. The results suggested that partial sealant loss could lead to caries-like demineralisation in the affected areas.