Background: This position paper was commissioned by the European Association of Dental Public Health, which has established six working groups to investigate the current status of six topics related to oral public health. One of these areas is epidemiology of periodontal diseases. Methods: Two theses “A systematic review of definitions of periodontitis and the methods that have been used to identify periodontitis” and “Factors affecting community oral health care needs and provision” formed the starting point for this position paper. Additional relevant and more recent publications were retrieved through a MEDLINE search. Results: The literature reveals a distinct lack of consensus and uniformity in the definition of periodontitis within epidemiological studies. There are also numerous differences in the methods used. The consequence is that data from studies using differing case definitions and differing survey methods are not easily interpretable or comparable. The limitations of the widely used Community Periodontal Index of Treatment Need (C.P.I.T.N.) and its more recent derivatives are widely recognised. Against this background, this position paper reviews the current evidence base, outlines existing problems and suggests how epidemiology of periodontal diseases may be improved. Conclusions: The remit of this working group was to review and discuss the existing evidence base of epidemiology of periodontal diseases and to identify future areas of work to further enhance it.