• consent;
  • restraint;
  • autonomy;
  • constitutional law


Dentists providing treatment to individuals with developmental disabilities are often faced with unique medical/legal issues. Obtaining informed consent when a patient does not have capacity can be an involved process. Issues regarding therapeutic aides used for immobilization (i.e., restraint) during treatment may further complicate the situation. This area is controversial and has even resulted in legal difficulties for some dentists. Several topics related to the use of restraint are addressed in this article. A review of the literature and applicable laws pertaining to consent issues for people with special needs is presented and appropriate use of medical immobilization is discussed.

Existing guidelines are reviewed. Informed consent and the use of restraint should be incorporated into overall guidelines for the use of anesthesia, sedation, and alternative behavior management techniques in providing dental care to patients with special needs.