The demand for public dental services exceeds the capacity of available resources. Services are therefore rationed by categorising them into those seeking emergency or general dental care and then, most commonly, by chronological queuing. No evidence-based criteria or protocols exist in Australia to assess whether it's reasonable for patients to present for emergency dental care, or to prioritise those seeking general dental care who are placed on waiting lists. This publication investigates rationing dental care on the basis of patients' overall experience including reported symptoms and psychosocial impact of the oral problems. Such approaches help ration both emergency and general dental care as one step in reforming public dental care.