How dare the dentist threaten to restrain my child!

I was so looking forward to taking my young daughter in for her first dental check up. She’s three and she has tagged along on several of my dental visits and loved every minute of it. I choose a pediatric dentist and the second we stepped into the office, she had a big smile on her face and immediately ran to the play area. When it was time to go back for her exam, she threw a little fit because she didn’t want to stop playing. She was still crying when the dentist came in and he didn’t even try to help settle her down and mostly seemed annoyed. I honestly couldn’t believe what he said next! He said that if she didn’t stop they would have to sedate or possible restrain her. They didn’t even try to work with her. I thought pediatric dentists would be good at working with kids and helping them feel safe and comfortable. Threats of sedation or restraining does not send a good message, so we left without the exam. Is this a normal practice at pediatric offices? — Leah

How frustrating for you and your daughter! You made a good choice in deciding to leave because visits like that can often leave a child traumatized and afraid – and that makes it nearly impossible to get them to visit the dentist again in the future.

Many dentists use a “papoose board” if they have to restrain a child. As a general rule, there is typically a statement or waiver on your new patient paperwork that allows permission for restraining if it’s needed, so your signature on that document likely gives the doctor permission to do so.

Ideally, a pediatric dentist will spend some extra time with kids and parents in this type of situation. Their goal should be to get to know the child and help gain a sense of trust with them so that they will start to settle in and feel comfortable. Restraints should be used as a last resort if all other calming measures have been tried or only in cases where extensive dental procedures are needed. Typically the doctor will recommend sedation, followed by restraint or even offer the option of being sedated in the hospital for treatment.

If all of this is beyond your comfort level, contact some other dental office and see what their practice is. If your daughter seems to like your dentist office, maybe she would be more comfortable there. Many family dentists will see the entire family and have an excellent rapport with small children. If they say she is too young, take a little bit of time to really research and find a pediatric dentist whose care and chair side manner fits you and your child better.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Alana Macalik. For more information on the services she provides, visit her Arlington cosmetic dentist website.