Possession of information on population health needs is at the heart of the commissioning process. The move to local commissioning arrangements for all NHS dental services makes this particularly relevant for dentistry. High response rates in surveys are necessary for the results to be sufficiently valid to inform commissioning decisions. Our recent experience in organising and undertaking school-based epidemiological surveys has demonstrated an increasing problem with recruiting subjects of all ages. This has significant implications for dental epidemiological surveys in the future.