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Keywords:

  • (oral) epidemiology;
  • national surveys;
  • needs assessment;
  • oral health surveys;
  • policy

Abstract

Objectives

To take an overview of the history and future of oral health surveillance.

Methods

A brief review of the history and policy context of national surveys and equivalent large surveys of oral health and their objectives followed by an analysis of their fitness for modern purpose.

Results and Conclusion

The quality of oral health surveillance has improved immeasurably since the first attempts in the early 1960s, but national and regional surveys are still hampered by a lack of clarity about their purpose. The data they collect and describe are potentially invaluable and have the major advantages of being both robust and relatively straightforward to interpret and explain to policy makers. A greater clarity of purpose both from researchers and those who commission research would allow better use of data and a greater understanding of the limitations of surveillance. The international research community have a role to play in establishing and sharing best practice globally.