OBJECTIVE To evaluate the microtensile bond strength and bond interface of total-etch or self-etch adhesives to normal dentin and caries-affected dentin. METHODS A total of 20 molars with occlusal caries lesion were used. The caries-affected dentin was obtained by removing the caries-infected dentin under the guidance of the caries detector. Beyond the level of caries-affected dentin all the enamel and partial dentin were removed. The adhesive systems, two total-etch adhesives (All-Bond 2, Prime&Bond NT) and two self-etch adhesives (Clearfil SE Bond, Xeno III) were applied respectively under the instructions of manufacturers. A block of composite resin was build up superficially. All the teeth were sectioned to obtain bar-shaped specimens with bonded surface area about 0.9 mm x 0.9 mm. The specimens were divided into normal dentin group and caries-affected dentin group via stereomicroscope. The bond strength was tested in a microtensile tester with a crosshead speed of 1 mm/min. The mean values of bond strength were compared using two-way ANOVA. The bonding interface between the dentin and adhesives was qualitatively evaluated under the observation of scanning electron microscope (SEM). RESULTS Two-way ANOVA revealed a significant influence of both the type of dentin and the adhesive systems tested on microtensile bond strength values. All the adhesives attained higher strength in normal dentin. In normal dentin, there was no significant difference between total-etch and self-etch adhesives. In caries-affected dentin, bond strength of Xeno III was significantly lower than the others. For SEM, the hybrid layer in caries-affected dentin was thicker but more porous than that in normal dentin. Compared with normal dentin, there was fewer resin tag exhibited in caries-affected dentin and no lateral branches were observed. CONCLUSIONS The total-etch adhesive had higher bond strength than self-etch adhesive systems in caries-affected dentin.