Below are the scary comments forwarded from one of the dental hygienists mentioned in the above link.
My encounter with the blatantly unsanitary conditions occurred about 25 years ago (!!), around the time we had new knowledge about AIDS and the transmission of dz was becoming a real issue. This was also the time that dental professionals started wearing masks, shields, gloves, etc., in other words started thinking in terms of protective barriers for all parties. I was substituting in various offices and had an opportunity to observe a variety of conditions. Clearly there are dentists of the 'old school' who still do not comply with existing health standards and there are double standards for dentists, hygienists and other personnel. For example, by the time I retired nearly 3 years ago, the dentists themselves have not been 'required' by law to wear a mask while treating a patient. I observed that vanity prevented some practitioners from wearing masks and goggles as did a sense of excess heat and other excuses. In terms of 'spot checks' in the dental office, they are done but not frequently enough and I suspect that one can be alerted ahead if on friendly terms, so to speak. There are many, many issues in the dental arena (as in the medical one) that are of great concern and are still in the process of systems development....amalgam re-capture, contaminated materials disposal (particularly on a septic, leech field systems), biohazard waste....In terms of sterilization, there is no excuse for the lack of it in the dental office as autoclaves are the standard. However, there are great variations in the implementation of separation shields between the sterile and non-sterile field and numerous opportunities for contamination. Often a dental rep will place a laptop on the sterile surface when taking inventory, assistants juggle supplies on and off sterile countertops, etc. so the chain is broken in numerous ways unless a clear and enforced system is in place. Human error, in many and various forms, is the ultimate culprit here...often as simple as an unwillingness on the part of the dentist in charge to hold simple office meetings to discuss the issues and develop a system that can be implemented and routinized by all parties in the office.
You may pass this on to Jim, for whatever it is worth!
Update: In November of 2008 the Post Register ran the following story called: