OBJECTIVE: To compare bond failure rates between direct and indirect techniques for bonding orthodontic brackets. DESIGN: A two-centre single blinded prospective randomized controlled clinical trial. MATERIALS AND METHODS: This study was undertaken at the Birmingham Dental Hospital and Good Hope Hospital, Sutton Coldfield. Thirty-three subjects meeting the inclusion criteria were selected from orthodontic waiting lists and assigned to either of two study groups according to a split-mouth study design. The number and site of bracket failures between tooth types was recorded over 1 year. Statistical analysis was carried out using chi-square tests. RESULTS: Brackets were lost from 14 of the 553 teeth bonded, giving an overall bond failure rate of 2.5%. There were no significant differences in bond failures between direct and indirect bonding or in the tooth types of the failures. CONCLUSIONS: There was no significant difference in the bond failure rates between direct and indirect bonding.