When I saw this news story, about using restraints on children in a local dental practice, it made me take a moment to reflect. As a mom and a dentist, I have a unique ability to understand different angles of this story.
I should start by giving an opinion. If that little child was actually left alone, strapped to the chair, and breathing nitrous oxide, I can’t imagine that follows safe or allowable practices by any dental rules, laws, or regulations.
Now, I’ll speak from the mom perspective: As moms our number one job is to love our kids. Luckily, for the vast majority of us, that job comes easily and naturally. Our hearts grow bigger at the birth of each of our children, and the love inside us grows naturally every day after they’re born. With that love comes a natural instinct to protect these precious miracles we call our kids. The grizzly bear instinct.
It’s the one that allows us to lift the proverbial car. It can make a poised lady go “Incredible Hulk” on you in a split second. It can make a preacher’s wife curse like a sailor, and it makes a normal woman want to rip the head off of anyone or anything about to harm her child.
Just seeing the photo of that little girl strapped down ignites the grizzly inside me…and she’s not even my kid. I can’t imagine how her parents felt, but I am sorry they had to have this experience. It is possible that the girl was safe. She might have been breathing oxygen only, and – believe it or not – that papoose board was designed for the safety of the child.
The pappoose board:
As horrific as it may look or seem. This restraint device was invented to use to protect children during medical and dental procedures. It has been proven to work better than using staff members to try to hold down a child’s arms and legs. As I learned about it in dental school, it is only to be used when the child simply can not hold still. Because of the nature of a dental procedure, if a child is squirming, fighting, or thrashing, he or she could get injured (even seriously injured) during the procedure. I have never used a papoose board, but I do have many friends who are pediatric dentists, and they do have to use this system sometimes…albeit, infrequently.
Here is where I think the situation in this news story went seriously wrong: Communication!
From the news report it sounds like the only communication the dental team had with the parents was in an informed consent form. I joke that thanks to lawyers (like Steve, my hubby!), dentists we have to use these forms and dozens others every day. (Steve would argue that if it weren’t for laywers protecting us, we would all be much worse off…I do agree with him).
Back to the topic — communication. As a dentist, I feel like communication is one of the most important responsibilities of my job. And, I don’t mean communication by way of a signed form. I mean actually talking with your patients (or their parents). I need to talk with my patients about their situation. If you’re my patient, I need to understand who you are, and where you’re coming from. Everyone has a different walk of life, and that walk determines a lot about your circumstances. It plays a big role in the health of your mouth and your overall health. It also determines how you comprehend — and therefore how I need to explain your diagnosis and treatment.
Sure, my consent form covers me, legally, to treat you. And, it covers me if things go wrong while I’m delivering proper treatment. What it doesn’t do is allow you the chance to ask questions in a way that you truly understand what’s going on in your mouth. Only time with me and my team allows you to fully understand what’s wrong, so you can make the best decision to move forward with treatment…or not move forward.
My guess is that the dentist in the news story is extremely busy. (Believe it or not, it’s not simple to make a living practicing dentistry — we have a lot of things we have to shuffle, juggle, and balance every day in order to maintain a profitable business.) My guess is that day, he or she was probably so busy that this child was prepared for treatment before the dentist was ready to go in. And while she waited there, she got scared (who wouldn’t?) and cried out. Her dad ran back to find her there, and he had no idea what was happening to his child (even though he signed the consent form). My guess is that if the dentist had only taken a few moments to pull Dad aside and communicate, none of this would have happened. Because, if Dad had the chance to understand the situation through questions and answers with the dentist or staff member, Dad could have chosen for his daughter to move forward with the papoose keeping her safe. Or, Dad could have chosen to take her home without treatment that day.
This story speaks to so many aspects of why I’ve created my practice to be a place where dentistry can be an enjoyable experience for you, my patient. Perhaps driven by the mom in me, I designed my practice to be a relaxing, convenient, and positive place where my patients receive the best possible care. With leading-edge technology and excellent communication, I can diagnose problems when they are miniscule. I can communicate them to you in a way you understand. And, I can give you options to choose the best treatment for your. For example, with digital photos, digital x-rays, and an infrared device, I can tell when an area of your tooth starts to weaken. It’s not a cavity…yet. If you choose not to treat that area (with a choice of rinses, trays, sealants, etc), it will become a cavity that needs a filling. If the cavity grows quickly, the tooth might need more extensive treatment (like a root canal). But, since you and I discovered the problem and communicated about it very early, you have all of the information you need.
And it’s up to you to decide whether to treat the problem early, or wait until later.
That’s just one example of how I try to deliver unprecedented care. Whether you see me simply for wellness check-ups and cleanings or for a gorgeous smile makeover, your experience is the same. From start to finish your visits are an enjoyable and informative experience.