While the control of pain and anxiety is fundamental to the practice of dentistry, the use of conscious sedation in dentistry is very variable among dentists. The need for conscious sedation could be considered by assessing and ranking a combination of information on patient anxiety, medical history and the complexity of the anticipated clinical treatment. By undertaking this systemtic assessment an indication of sedation need may be developed which would act as an aide to decision making and, potentially, referral management. Such a tool could also be used by commissioners who need to identify patients who need conscious sedation for dental treatment in order to plan, commission and deliver appropriate sedation services. © 2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.