The aim of this study was to evaluate the influence of different surface treatments (air abrasion, acid etching, laser irradiation) on the surface roughness of a lithium-disilicate-based core ceramic. A total of 40 discs of lithium disilicate-based core ceramic (IPS Empress 2; Ivoclar Vivadent, Schaan, Liechtenstein) were prepared (10 mm in diameter and 1 mm in thickness) according to the manufacturer's instructions. Specimens were divided into four groups (n = 10), and the following treatments were applied: air abrasion with alumina particles (50 mu m), acid etching with 5% hydrofluoric acid, Nd:YAG laser irradiation (1 mm distance, 100 mJ, 20 Hz, 2 W) and Er:YAG laser irradiation (1 mm distance, 500 mJ, 20 Hz, 10 W). Following determination of surface roughness (R-a) by profilometry, specimens were examined with atomic force microscopy. The data were analysed by one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) and Tukey HSD test (alpha = 0.05). One-way ANOVA indicated that surface roughness following air abrasion was significantly different from the surface roughness following laser irradiation and acid etching (P < 0.001). The Tukey HSD test indicated that the air abrasion group had a significantly higher mean value of roughness (P < 0.05) than the other groups. No significant difference was found between the acid etching and laser irradiation (both Er:YAG and Nd:YAG) groups (P > 0.05). Air abrasion increased surface roughness of lithium disilicate-based core ceramic surfaces more effectively than acid-etching and laser irradiation.