Schools provide an important setting for promoting health, as they reach over 1 billion children worldwide and, through them, the school staff, families and the community as a whole. Health promotion messages can be reinforced throughout the most influential stages of children's lives, enabling them to develop lifelong sustainable attitudes and skills. Poor oral health can have a detrimental effect on children's quality of life, their performance at school and their success in later life. This paper examines the global need for promoting oral health through schools. The WHO Global School Health Initiative and the potential for setting up oral health programmes in schools using the health-promoting school framework are discussed. The challenges faced in promoting oral health in schools in both developed and developing countries are highlighted. The importance of using a validated framework and appropriate methodologies for the evaluation of school oral health projects is emphasized.