Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of phosphoric acid pre-etching times on shear bond strength (SBS) and surface free energy (SFE) with single-step self-etch adhesives. Methods: The three single-step self-etch adhesives used were: 1) Scotchbond Universal Adhesive (3M ESPE), 2) Clearfil tri-S Bond (Kuraray Noritake Dental), and 3) G-Bond Plus (GC). Two no pre-etching groups, 1) untreated enamel and 2) enamel surfaces after ultrasonic cleaning with distilled water for 30 seconds to remove the smear layer, were prepared. There were four pre-etching groups: 1) enamel surfaces were pre-etched with phosphoric acid (Etchant, 3M ESPE) for 3 seconds, 2) enamel surfaces were pre-etched for 5 seconds, 3) enamel surfaces were pre-etched for 10 seconds, and 4) enamel surfaces were pre-etched for 15 seconds. Resin composite was bonded to the treated enamel surface to determine SBS. The SFEs of treated enamel surfaces were determined by measuring the contact angles of three test liquids. Scanning electron microscopy was used to examine the enamel surfaces and enamel-adhesive interface. Results: The specimens with phosphoric acid pre-etching showed significantly higher SBS and SFEs than the specimens without phosphoric acid pre-etching regardless of the adhesive system used. SBS and SFEs did not increase for phosphoric acid pre-etching times over 3 seconds. There were no significant differences in SBS and SFEs between the specimens with and without a smear layer. Conclusion: The data suggest that phosphoric acid pre-etching of ground enamel improves the bonding performance of single-step selfetch adhesives, but these bonding properties do not increase for phosphoric acid pre-etching times over 3 seconds.
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