BACKGROUND: Oral health is an important component of daily functioning and well-being. A comprehensive patient-reported oral health measure is needed to gauge the impact of oral health status on children and adolescents. This study aims to develop oral health item banks and associated short-form surveys for children and adolescents 2-17 year olds. METHODS: Using children and adolescents, ages 2-17 years, selected from diverse dental sites in Greater Los Angeles Area, we propose to develop state-of-the-science methods to create oral health item banks to effectively measure oral health outcomes for children and adolescents. Methods include a literature review of existing measures, focus groups, cognitive interviews, drafting and field testing of survey items, and evaluation of the psychometric properties of the measures. RESULTS: Based on the systematic literature search and focus groups, we identified core (physical health, mental health, and social function domains) and peripheral (e.g., need and access) oral health domains. We then drafted survey items and revised them based on 66 cognitive interviews (27 children/adolescents and 39 parents) with 39 families. The revised items will be administered in a field test of 500 children and adolescents ages 2-17, and their parents. CONCLUSIONS: The qualitative methods used in the initial phases of the project (focus group and cognitive interviews) are the initial steps in the development of oral health item banks and associated short-form surveys for children and adolescents. The oral health items can potentially be used to create effective computerized adaptive test and/or create ad hoc short forms targeting specific areas of oral health to survey large populations of children with much less cost compared with traditional clinical oral health examination.