OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this study of final-year dental students in 10 classes (1997, 2001-2009) were to examine their self-reported oral health attitudes and behaviours and describe any trends in these attributes. PARTICIPANTS AND METHODS: Students were surveyed in final semester via an anonymous questionnaire (34 behaviour questions; eight attitude statements). Distributions, trends over time and attitude-behaviour associations were examined. RESULTS: Of 583 students, 459 responded (79%). All tooth-brushed with fluoride toothpaste; 80% brushed ≥2/day. Overall, 85% flossed; over time flossing behaviour increased significantly (P < 0.05), and those flossing 1-2/day increased (P < 0.005). Over time, significant decreases occurred in those taught toothbrushing (P < 0.001) and flossing (P < 0.05), and in use of mouth rinses (P < 0.05) and tooth cleansing sticks/picks (P < 0.001). Almost all (96%) had received a dental examination; 77% attended a dentist 1-3/year. Between-meal snacking was common (84%); 71% chewed gum. Although 18% had ever smoked, 5% currently smoked. Most strongly agreed they expected to keep most of their teeth for all their life (76%); their future needs for fillings would be minimal (61%); smoking could adversely affect their teeth or gums (85%); and regular dental attendance was important for their dental health (51%). Congruent attitudes and behaviours favouring oral health were widely held concerning dental attendance, flossing and smoking. CONCLUSIONS: Final-year dental students showed well established, favourable oral hygiene attitudes and behaviours, with evidence to suggest this knowledge was developed whilst in dental school. Despite many ceasing smoking, 5% still smoked. All dental students should receive training in motivational counselling and tobacco cessation to ensure this is included in patient care.