Aims: To assess the transferability of the Control Preferences Scale to dental settings and to explore patients' preferred and perceived roles in dental treatment decision-making. Setting and participants: A convenience sample of 40 patients, 20 recruited from the University Dental Hospital of Manchester and 20 from a general dental practice in Cheshire. Methods: A cross-sectional survey, using the Control Preferences Scale, a set of sort cards outlining five decisional roles (active, semi-active, collaborative, semi-passive, passive), slightly modified for use in dental settings. A second set of cards was used to identify perceived decisional role. Rationale for choice of preferred role was recorded verbatim. Results: The Control Preferences Scale was found to be transferable to dental settings. All patients in the sample had identifiable preferences regarding their role in treatment decision-making. A collaborative decisional role, with patient and dentist equally sharing responsibility for decision-making, was most popular at both sites. However, patients at both sites typically perceived themselves as attaining a passive role in treatment decisions. Lack of knowledge about dentistry and trust in the dentist were reported contributors to a passive decisional role preference, whilst those with more active role preferences gave rationales consistent with a consumerist stance. Conclusions: This exploratory study's findings suggest that dental patients have distinct preferences in relation to treatment decision-making role and that these may not always be met during consultations with their dentist. The Control Preferences Scale appears to be appropriate for use in dental settings.