Caries-affected dentine is the usual substrate bonded to in everyday clinical practice. The first step for most of the current dentine adhesive systems is etching or conditioning. It is therefore important to understand the effect of etchant/conditioner on caries-affected dentine.
Twelve extracted carious permanent molars were examined. Six teeth had caries removed using burs after staining with a caries detector dye, and caries from the other six was removed using Carisolv. After caries removal, three teeth from each group were left untreated. The remaining teeth were sectioned to obtain two normal dentine samples and two caries-affected dentine samples from each tooth. One half of the normal dentine samples and one half of the caries-affected dentine samples were treated with 35 per cent phosphoric acid, and the remaining samples were treated with 20 per cent polyacrylic acid/3 per cent aluminium chloride. The samples were observed using field emission scanning electron microscopy (FE-SEM).
Phosphoric acid treated samples showed more obvious intertubular dentine microporosity and greater depth of demineralization in caries-affected dentine. Polyacrylic acid treated samples showed some residual smear layer. However, the peritubular and intertubular collagen network was easily observed in Carisolv treated dentine. The depth of demineralization was not as distinct as that of the phosphoric treated samples.
From this study it was shown that etched 'normal' dentine and etched caries-affected dentine had different surface appearances. Furthermore, the two caries removal techniques resulted in different caries-affected dentine surfaces after acid treatment that may influence the longevity of bonds from adhesive restorative materials.