PURPOSE: The goal of our study was to investigate the changes in enamel surface roughess induced by the application of different chemical substances by atomic force microscopy and scanning electron microscopy. METHOD: Five sound human first upper premolar teeth were chosen for the study. The buccal surface of each tooth was treated with a different chemical agent as follows: Sample 1 - 38% phosphoric acid etching (30s) , sample 2 - no surface treatment (control sample), 3 - bleaching with 37.5 % hydrogen peroxide (according to the manufacturer's instructions), 4 - conditioning with a self-etching primer (15 s), 5 - 9.6 % hydrofluoric acid etching (30s). All samples were investigated by atomic force microscopy in a non-contact mode and by scanning electron microscopy. Several images were obtained for each sample, showing evident differences regarding enamel surface morphology. The mean surface roughness and the mean square roughness were calculated and compared. RESULTS: All chemical substances led to an increased surface roughness. Phosphoric acid led to the highest roughness while the control sample showed the lowest. Hydrofluoric acid also led to an increase in surface roughness but its effects have yet to be investigated due to its potential toxicity. CONCLUSIONS: By treating the human enamel with the above mentioned chemical compounds a negative microretentive surface is obtained, with a morphology depending on the applied substance.© (2010) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.