Introduction: Adhesive dentistry faces complex clinical situations, which require the dentist to be able to choose the best adhesive protocol offered by universal adhesives.
Objective: To present current information about the performance in bond strength according to the etching technique used in universal adhesives, evaluating the total etching technique, selective enamel etching, self-etch technique and bonding used in special clinical situations.
Methodology: A search was carried out in the PubMed electronic database using as keywords “universal adhesive”, “total etch technique”, “selective enamel etching”, “self-etch”.
Results: In the total acid etching technique, the acid gel to be used must be considered, as well as the type of adhesive. Selective enamel etching seeks to obtain that strong anchorage to the enamel that can only be obtained using a phosphoric acid gel, allowing the self-etching quality of the adhesive to act on dentin. The use of the self-etch technique will simplify the clinical steps in the adhesive protocol, however adhesion may decrease consequently. If there is any type of alteration in the substrate to be adhered, the resulting adhesive force could be modified, regardless of the adhesive technique used.
Conclusion: Universal adhesives will allow the clinician to choose the adhesive protocol, depending on the clinical situation they are facing, as long as the clinician pays attention to aspects such as the acid gel to be used, the adhesive application time and the conditions of the substrate to adhere.