The intraoral sandblaster is a vital piece of armamentarium in my practice for nearly every adhesive clinical procedure, be it direct or indirect. The two main benefits of micro-etching are its ability to clean preparations and create micro roughness, both which help to increase bond strengths.1, 2

In general, any time I am going to bond a restoration (direct/indirect composite, veneers, partial coverage, full coverage), the first step in the bonding procedure is to micro-etch the preparation. Although there are other ways to “clean” the preparation, nothing is as effective or efficient as micro-etching. 

Two key factors that must be addressed when using an intraoral sandblaster are protecting the adjacent teeth/restorations and protecting the soft tissue. Protecting the adjacent teeth/restorations is relatively easy. It is best done with either a rubber dam or some form of matrix, preferably metal.

micro etching bonding

Although using Teflon tape or a Mylar strip are other options, they are either hard to insert or difficult to hold in place during the procedure. Also, because of the nature of these materials, the sandblaster can more easily perforate them.

Protecting the tissue from micro-etching can be a little more difficult. If the tissue is not adequately protected, it is easy to create bleeding, which can be devastating for the bonding procedure. 

The best way to protect the tissue is to again place a rubber dam, although depending on the margin location this can difficult. In situations with deeper margins, I resort to placing a retraction cord. Although this doesn’t completely alleviate the issue, it does help by displacing the tissue. 

What also helps is the micro etcher that I use. For the past few years, I have been using the EtchMaster from Groman Dental (Fig 2).

micro etching tools etchmaster groman dental

This micro-etcher helps because it localizes the “spray” of the aluminum oxide in two ways. 

First, the size of tip is very small so the direction of the spray can more easily be controlled. The other benefit of the small tip size is it helps limit the amount of over-spray.

Second, the tips come as a “unidose” product designed for one-time use, so the spray stays localized every time. The more times a traditional micro-etcher is used, the more the internal part of the tip itself becomes abraded by the aluminum oxide particles, so that over time the spray out of the nozzle becomes increasingly “wider.” Other benefits of the EtchMaster system are as follows:

microetch slow speed handpiece
  • The force of the micro etcher is controlled by the rheostat, as the system attaches to the connecter for the slow speed handpiece (Fig.3). 
  • Multiple options available for both the “type” and “size” of particles.
  • The size of the unidose delivery units comes in  both “small” and “large”

If you are practicing adhesive dentistry, make sure you are also micro-etching. 


1. Flury S, Peutizfeldt A, Lussi A. Two pre-treatments for bonding to non-carious cervical root dentin. Am J Dent. 2015 Dec;28(6):362-6

2. Erkut S, et al. Effect of different surface-cleaning techniques on the bond strengths of composite resin restorations. J Prosthet Dent. 2014 Oct;112(4):949-56


Commenter's Profile Image Rob R.
September 23rd, 2017
I was under the impression that sandblasting actually created a weaker bond. I think it was John Kanka and others that looked at this extensively a few years back. They were citing a smoother bond being better.
Commenter's Profile Image Rob R.
September 27th, 2017
I was reading some of his posts on Dentaltown in which he stated that every test he and Gerry Greitzer have done indicated sandblasting didn't improve bond strengths for enamel and dentin. He didn't show any research on there though. It's one of those things I've heard both ways, so that's why I brought it up.
Commenter's Profile Image Greggory K.
September 27th, 2017
It must also be remembered that there is a often a difference from bonding procedures that take place on a lab bench (newly prepared substrate with no contamination) to what occurs in the clinic, especially in situations where you are bonding an indirect restoration (provisional cement contamination, micro leakage, bacteria / biofilm contamination, etc.). In the clinic setting, sandblasting helps create a more clean surface for the bonding procedure.
Commenter's Profile Image Muna S.
June 4th, 2018
Love your description of the microetcher here. It's a great product, I love using it!