The process of removing some of the superficial calcium in enamel or dentine to provide a micromechanical surface for the retention of sealants or bonding agents. The etching agent is usually phosphoric acid gel. Plaque must be removed before etching as it is not penetrated effectively by the etching agent. Some bonding agents are self-etching and leave the smear layer on the dentine; these usually produce less aggressive etching of enamel. See also acid-etch technique.
Christensen G. J. Has the ‘total-etch’ concept disappeared? J Am Dent Assoc 2006;137:817–20.