AIM: This was to carry out a review of the literature concerning mineral trioxide aggregate (MTA) and Portland cement with regards to clinical, biological and mechanical findings and a possible substitution of MTA through Portland cement for endodontic use. STUDY DESIGN: Electronic literature search of scientific papers from January 1993 to January 2009 was carried out on the MEDLINE and Scopus databases using specific key words. In total, 57 papers were identified that dealt with MTA and Portland cement in a relevant way. RESULTS: The review of 50 papers conforming to the applied criteria showed that MTA and Portland cements have the same clinical, biological and mechanical properties. In animal experiments and technical characterisations both materials seemed to have very similar properties. The only difference is bismuth oxide in MTA added for better radio opacity. It seems likely that MTA materials are based on industrial Portland cements mixed with bismuth oxide. More studies, especially some long-term studies comparing MTA and Portland cement, are necessary. CONCLUSION: The existing literature gives a solid base for clinical studies with Portland cement in order to replace MTA as an endodontic material. Portland cement could be a substitute for most endodontic materials used in primary teeth.