A definition of a restorative disaster is proposed. Reasons are discussed that contribute to restorative disasters that primarily focus on dentist factors within the dentist–patient relationship. For prevention of a restorative disaster in the failing dentition, the importance of effective communication, the use of an evidence-based approach and having clear consent processes are stressed. The negative consequences of an inability to say 'no', a reliance on experience and intuition in decision making, a simple misplaced desire to help and the creation of false hope are seen as factors in managing the failing dentition that may lead to restorative disaster. Using a clinical example, a broad strategy for effective management of a restorative disaster is discussed, which readers may find helpful to apply to similar situations that may occur on occasion in clinical practice. CPD/Clinical Relevance: This article is relevant to both generalists and specialists involved in the clinical management of heavily restored and failing dentitions, together with students who will be likely to face similar issues in the future.