Traditionally, child oral health has been assessed using clinical parameters of disease and deformity. However, there is a growing interest in the psychosocial impact of oral health among children. This commentary outlines the value and need for assessing child oral health-related quality of life (COHQoL). COHQoL has implications for oral health needs assessment (at an individual and population level) and for evaluating outcomes from specific treatments, initiatives and dental services overall. In addition, it could prove to be a useful adjunct tool for evidence-based dentistry research and practice. Theoretical and practical considerations in assessing the complex psychosocial construct of oral health among children are discussed: the use of general versus oral health-specific measures, the development of tools for children, the use of generic versus condition-specific measures, and the measurement of 'positive' oral health. Recommendations for research and practice are presented.