Georgia Dentist Office Defends ‘Papoose' Restraint After Parent Complaint

"Papoose boards" used to keep children firmly in place.

ByABC News
July 2, 2015, 2:02 PM

— -- A Georgia dentistry practice that’s under fire for using a restraint device on a child is defending its use of the so-called papoose board, saying every parent signs a consent form and is allowed to stay with the child during a procedure.

“[The] guideline is, if the child is moving a lot or crying or kicking, we get the parents and take parent to the back and tell them what’s going on,” Office Manager Felicia Evans of Smiles R Us in Carrolton, Georgia, told ABC News today.

James Crow and his mother, Evelyn Crow, told ABC affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta they were horrified to find his 5-year-old daughter Elizabeth in the device when she went to have a tooth pulled. Evelyn Crow told the station she and her son heard Elizabeth shouting before finding her in the exam room strapped to the restraint device.

“I couldn’t see my kid in the body bag just strapped down to the bed; I couldn’t handle it,” James Crow told WSB-TV.

“This little girl was frightened, I had to carry her out, she was shaking so bad,” Evelyn Crow told WSB-TV.

But the dentistry practice says the boards are only used with parental consent and that parents are welcome to stay with the child during any procedure.

Evans, the office manager, said dentists in the office use the papoose board, which restrains a child’s arms and legs, if excessive movement interferes with treatment or risks injury.

Evans said the consent form is read to parents and they can stay with the child if the papoose board is used. She said she was unaware of any legal complaints being filed regarding the restraints.

Calls to both James and Evelyn Crow for further comment were not immediately answered.

Dr. Mary Hayes, a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association, said the papoose board is designed to keep children safe during their visit to the dentist.

“When it’s often used, it’s trying to prevent movement which is going to interfere with a treatment,” Hayes said, “In the emergency room when the child needs suturing, [protective] stabilization is used quite a bit.”

Hayes said it’s important to keep parents informed and get consent for the procedure to foster a sense of trust and communication between the dentist and the family.

Also, according to guidelines posted by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, dentists should be wary of using restraints for “protective” stabilization because “the use of protective stabilization has the potential to produce serious consequences, such as physical or psychological harm, loss of dignity, and violation of a patient’s rights.”

If restraints are used, however, the AAPD recommends that “informed consent must be obtained and documented in the patient’s record prior to use of protective stabilization.”

Papoose boards have been the subject of controversy in the past, with some medical experts questioning their use. Dr. Joel Weaver, a dentist and former editor in chief of Anesthesia Progress, has questioned why such restraints are still used, calling them a “ brutal, archaic practice.”

“We now must start the process to improve anesthetic availability in dentistry for the sake of our children and grandchildren, so there will be no need for physical restraint to have a cavity filled,” Weaver wrote in a 2010 article.