In this paper the authors define the concept of care pathways and explain what they are and how they have been applied in various areas of healthcare. The authors discuss the benefits of the care pathway approach and outline the first national dental NHS (clinical) care pathway and its link to National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance on dental recall intervals. The authors go on to explain that as a result of one of the key recommendations of Options for Change, the concept of care pathways will be extended to the primary dental services of the NHS. The first care pathway will be the Oral Health Assessment (OHA). The authors describe the development of, and rationale for, the OHA and provide details of its planned introduction. The authors conclude that the OHA should act as the initial interface between the primary care team and the dental patient. In so doing it should enable a change in the focus of care, from treatment-based to more prevention-led, personalised care appropriate to the specific needs of individual patients.