The British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry (BASCD) plays a key role in supporting dental epidemiology in the NHS. BASCD is responsible for the coordination of surveys of child dental health across Great Britain allowing national and local comparisons of oral health. Surveys started in 1985/86 in England and Wales and in 1987/88 Scotland also participated. Northern Ireland also participated from 1993/94.

Results from the programmes in the various countries can be found :-

At first the surveys were of school children only, identical across the UK, and during a 4-year cycle examined children aged 5, 12, 5, 14.

Since 2003 the various country programmes have differed, as a reflection of devolution and local priorities.

Scotland examines 5- and 12-year olds every other year.

In England 5- and 12-year- olds are examined in 2 years out of each 4-year cycle, the other years are used to address oral health issues of other groups.

Wales has a similar programme to England. Currently Northern Ireland does not routinely collect survey data.

BASCD guidance and standards have underpinned NHS school dental surveys of the deciduous and permanent teeth for 30 years (Pitts, Evans and Pine 1997; Pine, Pitts and Nugent 1997a&b). The dmft/DMFT (decayed missing filled teeth) caries criteria were set up for use in school dental surveys.

More recently surveys in places other than school have been carried out in line with this guidance. The BASCD co-ordination role has been key to ensuring that resulting data across the UK was comparable.

As NHS dental surveys look at new areas the challenge for BASCD is to support the production of data which can be compared across different areas and groups. This includes signposting to work already carried out, and proposing use of dental indicators that are both simple to use and result in useful data.