Dental mythbuster 23: Consent to dental treatment

Page last updated: 26 September 2023
Organisations we regulate

It is fundamental that a person receiving care or treatment agrees to receive it.

We will consider the topic of consent when we review if the practice is providing effective care.

This relates to:

Obtaining valid informed consent for dental treatment is:

  • a legal requirement to allow a practitioner to touch a patient
  • respects patients right to self determination
  • makes it easier to treat patients with better patient outcomes

Obtaining consent

Obtaining valid informed consent means ensuring that:

Treatment is voluntary

Patients must not be coerced into having dental treatment. Dental practitioners must always obtain permission before dental treatment as well as during the course of treatment. Patients can withdraw their consent at any time.

All necessary information is disclosed

Give patients enough information and time to consider any proposed dental treatment. Include:

  • the risks and benefits of treatment
  • any alternatives
  • costs

Dental practitioners are able to assess a patient’s mental capacity to consent

Does the patient have capacity under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 to give consent? There is a two-stage test for assessing this:

  • Stage 1: be aware of impairments that could affect capacity, such as dementia
  • Stage 2: can the patient:
    • understand the relevant information?
    • retain that information, even for a short while?
    • use or weigh up the relevant information as part of the decision making process?
    • communicate their decision to the dental practitioner?

More information about mental capacity act decisions

Age considerations are taken into account

Whether a child can give consent for their own treatment depends on their age and if they are competent to make the decision.

  • under 16 years:
    • and not competent: the parent/guardian should consent to treatment, as long as the dental treatment is in the best interests of the patient
    • and competent: then the child may consent without their parents/guardian giving permission
  • over 16 years but under 18 years: they can consent to dental treatment. This cannot be overridden by their parents, but could be by a court.

When we inspect

We review the practice’s systems and processes for obtaining consent. We may ask dental practitioners and other dental care professionals to describe how and why they ask for consent. We may look at an example of a dental care record to support what we are told.