Publication of the strategy document ‘Shaping a Healthier Future'1 marked a major milestone in the development of the health care delivery system in Ireland. The strategy was underpinned by three key principles: equity, quality of service and accountability. It was emphasised that the benefit to be derived from the health services should be measured in terms of health gain and social gain. The central role of valid meaningful information was regarded as crucial to the proper implementation of the strategy. The more recent Health Strategy ‘Quality and Fairness - A Health System for You'2 added people-centredness as one of its key principles. The Dental Health Action Plan (1994)3 again reiterated the need for meaningful information (including epidemiological data to measure oral health status) for prioritisation of preventive and treatment needs. Oral diseases, and in particular dental decay (caries) and gum disease, are among the most common chronic diseases affecting the population in Ireland. Most adults in Ireland have had contact with the dental services; indeed many have had extensive dental treatment both in childhood and in adulthood. Whilst it is possible to monitor activity within the state-funded dental services (by monitoring payment to dentists by the state for various oral treatments), such activity reporting tells only a small part of the story of oral health in Ireland. Periodic surveys of the oral health of the population are needed to track changes in the oral health of the whole population, not just those who use state-funded services. Survey data are essential to the evaluation of current services and to the planning of appropriate future services. The only previous national survey of adult oral health undertaken in Ireland was directed by the Oral Health Services Research Centre (OHSRC), University College Cork, and was carried out in 1989/'904. The national survey of adult oral health described in this report was conducted between 2000 and 2002, also under
the direction of the OHSRC. A team of 30 trained and calibrated health board dentists and 30 dental nurses conducted the fieldwork. The Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA), on behalf of the Department of Health and Children, commissioned the survey. The contract was awarded following a call for tenders advertised in the Journal of the European Commission. The health boards supported the survey in a number of ways, including the purchase of equipment and the deployment of staff to conduct the fieldwork. An extensive consultation process was adopted for the development of the study protocol. Amongst those consulted were: the Chief Executive Officers of the health boards, the health board program managers group, nominated representatives of the health board dental service, officers of the Department of Health and Children, and the directors of the 1998 UK National Survey of Adult Oral Health5. Details of the project group, survey teams, and the nominated health board representatives are outlined in Appendices 1, 2 and 3 respectively.