No recent data on the experience of caries among Italian 12-year-olds are available. In 2004, an epidemiological survey called ‘National Pathfinder among Children’s Oral Health in Italy’ was promoted and carried out. This study reports the actual oral health status of Italian 12-year-olds according to gender, residence area and geographical distribution. Clinical examinations were carried out from March 2004 to April 2005, according to WHO criteria, and included dental caries (decay at the dentinal lesion level) and Community Periodontal Index (CPI). 5,342 children (2,670 males, 2,672 females) were examined by 7 ad hoc calibrated raters. Dental caries experience was found in 43.1% (95% CI 41.8–44.4%) of the study population. The mean DMFT score was 1.09 (95% CI 0.98–1.21). Significant differences (p < 0.05) were observed among geographical sections for DT, FT and DMFT. An inverse relationship was observed between mean DMFT and gross national product per capita (p < 0.001). Gingival bleeding was observed in 23.8% of children, while 28.7% had calculus. Significant differences in CPI scores among sections were found throughout the sample in both males and females (p < 0.001). Over the past two decades, mean DMFT fell from over 5 to its present level, halving every decade; consequently, the recorded level of dental caries has become aligned with that in other Western European countries. Nevertheless, differences in DMFT values remain between children from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

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