BACKGROUND: Students whilst training may encounter a number of incidents where infection from patient body fluids may occur, especially as their manual skills are underdeveloped and their clinical experience is limited. PURPOSE OF STUDY: (a) To assess the nature of the occupational exposures occurring to students in a UK dental school, (b) to assess the rate of reporting of incidents, and (c) to evaluate the association of various factors with these exposures. Students in the third, fourth and final years of the 5-year undergraduate dental course at the University of Birmingham were asked to complete a questionnaire that inquired into personal details, number and nature of incidents, their reporting and follow-up. A 100% response rate was achieved. RESULTS: Across the years, there was no significant correlation (p > 0.01) between sex, dominant hand, use of protective glasses or time of day. Slightly more exposures occurred in males, right-handed students, and in the afternoon. A significant decrease in exposures (p <0.01) occurred within final year, and when an assistant was employed. Significantly more incidents occurred while a patient was being treated than during operational clean-up procedures. A substantial number of dental students had experienced one or more occupational exposures during training. Of these, percutaneous injuries predominated. Junior students appear to be more likely to experience exposures, and in these students, needlestick injuries are the most common source. CONCLUSIONS: To reduce the incidence of these exposures, more instruction and training may be required in the earlier clinical years and more chairside assistance. Improvements are required in the monitoring of post-screening for seroconversion after HBV immunization, and in the reporting of test results in the event of an exposure incident. Under-reporting of incidents is common and ways to encourage and facilitate reporting should be sought.