Theriot Family Dental

Using Restraints on Children

Posted by writeradmin

I read that some dentists use restraints on children. I can’t imagine a scenario where that would be okay. Can you help me understand why that would ever be justified by someone who is not abusive?


Dear Karyn,

Pediatric mouth props

There are typically two types of restraints when it comes to pediatric dental care. The first is a mouth restraint, which is sometimes called a mouth prop. These are used to keep a child (and the dentist) safe. A peer of mine told me about a story from dental school where a student was working on a cavity for a child but didn’t use a mouth restraint. At some point during the procedure, the child bit down and the drill ended up going through her tooth causing a great deal of trauma for her. My friend decided then and there he would always use a mouth prop, especially when working with children. I would also consider this type of restraint a safety necessity.

pediatric papoose board
Pediatric Paposse Board

However, I am thinking the type of restraint you may be thinking about is like the one pictured directly above. This is called a papoose board. In most cases, a dentist who is good at working with children will know how to keep a nervous child calm. However, there are exceptions. Sometimes a child is just massively uncooperative. That can be from them being in fear or from them being in pain. If the child has an emergency dental situation, they may need to be restrained to calm them down enough to get the work done. In reality, the papoose board feels more like a weighted blanket hugging them tightly and it tends to calm them down right away.

There are a few ways to avoid this type of situation with a child. The first is to make sure your child goes to the dentist regularly and starts early. Too many parents make the mistake of waiting until their child has a problem before bringing them to the dentist for the first time. This causes them to associate the dentist with pain and makes them less cooperative. If a child is nervous, sometimes some mild dental sedation, such as nitrous oxide, helps calm them right down. They’ll often sleep completely through the appointment.

This blog is brought to you by Lafayette, LA Dentist Dr. John Theriot.