A national survey was conducted to investigate current procedures in New Zealand dental practices for control of cross-infection, and to gauge dentists' perceptions of their current procedures. A questionnaire was sent to all dental practices in New Zealand, and non-returns were followed up by two further mailings. From three mailings 767 useable questionnaires were returned (71.3 per cent of those sent out, 79.0 per cent of those potentially valid). Responses indicated that formal guidelines were generally well received, but varying proportions thought that some recommendations were unrealistic or irrelevant. Asked whether the dental practice offered treatment to 'high risk' (HIV-positive or HBAg-positive) patients, 25.3 per cent responded that none sought treatment. Almost all practices (92.0 per cent) had an autoclave, but only 42.8 per cent of practices autoclaved dental handpieces, and 10.9 per cent of practices wiped, cold disinfected or boiled extraction forceps. The large majority of responses complied with guidelines, but specific difficulties were identified with regard to sterilisation of handpieces.