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The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a self-etching primer, Transbond Plus Self Etching Primer (TSEP, 3M Unitek), and a non-rinse conditioner (NRC, Dentsply DeTrey) for bonding brackets, compared with the acid-etch technique. The brackets were bonded to extracted premolars using Transbond XT (3M Unitek). One of the following three conditioning protocols were used: (1) 37 per cent phosphoric acid (n=25), (2) TSEP (n=25), and (3) NRC (n=15). Shear bond strength (SBS) was measured with a universal testing machine. The adhesive remaining after debonding was determined using image analysis equipment. Scanning electron microscope (SEM) observations were also carried out on 12 premolars to observe the enamel surfaces.No significant differences were observed in SBS between the three groups (P=0.56). TSEP and NRC left significantly less adhesive on the tooth than the traditional acid-etch technique (P=0.004 and P=0.000, respectively). NRC left significantly less adhesive than TSEP (P=0.001). SEM observations showed that NRC produced a less aggressive etch pattern than TSEP, and that the etching effect of TSEP approximated that of phosphoric acid.