One of the challenges faced by global disease surveillance efforts is the lack of comparability across systems. Reporting commonly focuses on overall incidence, despite differences in surveillance quality between and within countries. For most immunizing infections, the age distribution of incident cases provides a more robust picture of trends in transmission. We present a framework to estimate transmission intensity for dengue virus from age-specific incidence data, and apply it to 359 administrative units in Thailand, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico. Our estimates correlate well with those derived from seroprevalence data (the gold standard), capture the expected spatial heterogeneity in risk, and correlate with known environmental drivers of transmission. We show how this approach could be used to guide the implementation of control strategies such as vaccination. Since age-specific counts are routinely collected by masany surveillance systems, they represent a unique opportunity to further our understanding of disease burden and risk for many diseases.