Tooth wear—attrition, erosion and abrasion—is perceived internationally as an ever-increasing problem. Clinical and epidemiological studies, however, are difficult to interpret and compare due to differences in terminology and the large number of indices that have been developed for diagnosing, grading and monitoring dental hard tissue loss. These indices have been designed to identify increasing severity and are usually numerical. Some record lesions on an aetiological basis (e.g. erosion indices), others record lesions irrespective of aetiology (tooth wear indices); none have universal acceptance, complicating the evaluation of the true increase in prevalence reported. This article considers the ideal requirements for an erosion index. It reviews the literature to consider how current indices have evolved and discusses if these indices meet the clinical and research needs of the dental profession.