The erbium:YAG laser coupled with a cooling stream of water appears to be an effective means of removing dental hard tissues. However, before the procedure is deemed clinically viable, there are several important issues of safety and efficacy that need to be explored. In this study we investigated the surface that remains following laser ablation of dentin and compared the results to the use of a dental handpiece. Specifically, we studied the effect the laser radiation had on the bonding of composite to dentin. The crowns of extracted human molars were removed revealing the underlying dentin. An additional thickness of material was removed with either a dental handpiece or an Er:YAG laser by raster scanning the samples under a fixed handpiece or laser. Comparable surface roughnesses were achieved. A cylinder of composite was bonded onto the prepared surfaces following the manufacturer's directions. The dentin-composite bond was then shear stressed to failure on a universal testing apparatus and the maximum load recorded. Preliminary results indicated that laser irradiated samples had improved bond strengths. SEM photographs of the surfaces were also taken to compare the two methods of tooth preparation.