Dental waterlines contain large numbers of Gram-negative bacteria. Endotoxin, a component of such organisms, has significant health implications. Paired samples of dental unit water and the aerosols generated during dental procedures were collected, and assayed for bacteria and endotoxin levels, using heterotrophic plate counts and the Limulus amoebocyte lysate test. Consistent with published studies, the extent of bacterial contamination in the dental waters sampled for this investigation surpassed the levels associated with potable water, with counts in excess of 2.0x10(6) c.f.u. ml(-1) in some samples. Correspondingly high concentrations of endotoxin [up to 15 000 endotoxin units (EU) ml(-1)] were present in the water. A statistically significant Spearman correlation coefficient of rho=0.94 between endotoxin (EU ml(-1)) and bacterial load (c.f.u. ml(-1)) was demonstrated. All of the aerosol samples contained detectable endotoxin. Further studies of the consequences of dental endotoxin exposure, and evaluation of means to prevent exposure, are warranted.