Pediatric Dentists regularly administer oral sedatives ("conscious sedation") to perform dental work on young children or toddlers because it makes them "cooperate" better.

If a parent is reluctant for his/her child to undergo conscious sedation due to the inherent risks and side effects associated with this procedure and wants the physician to perform the dental work using nitrous oxide or just a local anesthetic, can a dentist refuse to treat the child?

I think it's noteworthy that insurance does not cover the cost of conscious sedation (even in young children or in children who need a lot of dental work done) which suggests that conscious sedation is not actually necessary for the physical and mental well being of the child. It is mostly done for the convenience of the dentist or to accelerate the procedure.

Can a dentist withhold treatment in such cases? Or can a parent force the dentist to perform treatment with a lesser invasive approach?

  • @Damila please don't answer in comments.
    – Dale M
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 6:49
  • Do you mean local sedation?
    – Trish
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 12:27
  • @Trish local anesthetic is mentioned as a different thing, and local sedation is as unfamiliar a term (to me at least) as conscious sedation, so the answer to your question is probably no.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 19:47
  • @Trish By "local anesthetic" I mean something like Novocaine which is injected to numb the area around a tooth
    – S.O.S
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 23:31
  • 2
    Its not just done for the convenience of the dentist, its done for their safety - children are often biters, especially if theres sudden pain (which cant always be controlled by local anaesthetic appropriately). Biting and wriggling can slow down a procedure and potentially seriously injure the dentist.
    – user28517
    Commented Jan 8, 2021 at 23:22

1 Answer 1


A medical practitioner may use whatever methods s/he thinks proper and appropriate, subject to the limits of malpractice law, and to the right of the patient (or patient's parent or guardian for a child) to give informed consent to any procedure or treatment.

A patient can not insist on a treatment or method that the doctor or dentist does not wish to perform, having only the right to seek another practitioner.

Nor is a practitioner required to use only procedures covered by insurance, unless bound by contract to do so (as may be the case with some "in-network" or HMO agreements). Again, the patient is free to seek treatment elsewhere.

So the parent could insist that the dentist not use "conscious sedation" by withholding consent, the dentist may then refuse to treat at all, unless perhaps this was an emergency situation not allowing the parent to seek another treatment venue.


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