While some providers said a new restraint technique can help children cope better at the dentist’s office, opponents say it can actually traumatize children.
Dr. Brian Martin, division chief of pediatric dentistry at Children’s Hospital, said that although the “papoose board” is controversial, it can be crucial to a child’s dental visit.
“A lot of things we do in dentistry involve a lot of instruments that are near the face, obviously, and we don’t want to have a circumstance where we put the patient at risk,” Martin said.
The restraint devices are used in Pittsburgh and nationwide, but not every dentist or parent approves. Channel 11 News found a case in California where a girl suffered cuts and bruises in a papoose board. In Texas, a 4-year-old is said to have suffered brain damage, and other critics said it causes “dental PTSD.”
Those are all risks that Martin said he doesn’t take lightly, and he admits that things can go very wrong if the device isn’t used properly. For example, if a restraint is very tight, it could limit the ability to breath, or limit circulation to a child’s limbs.
Martin said that every doctor needs to follow the guidelines established by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry when deciding if a child needs to be restrained. That includes assessing a child’s developmental level, dental attitudes and temperament. Additionally, Marin said he will never use the papoose board without a parent’s consent.
Melissa Hartman, whose son C.J. is 8 and was trying out the papoose board, said she reassured her son and explained how the restraints work.
“I think, just a parent explaining it to him, to them, that, ‘You’re OK. It’s for your safety,' (helps)," Hartman said.
Martin said the papoose board can be very soothing for children on the autism spectrum. His best advice for parents is to come up with a treatment plan together.
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