Questions to ask before child undergoes treatment at dentist

Questions to ask about use of restraints, anesthesia

HOUSTON – A 7-year-old child was tied down to a dentist's chair -- unable to move, scared and without her parents nearby.

"They went to the room and put me on the table, and then tied me up and tied my hands, tied my legs and my head down. They were hurting me," 7-year-old Chloe Tobias recalled after a recent trip to the dentist.

It should have been a routine trip to the dentist for Chloe. But it turned into a terrifying experience.

"One-hundred percent scared," Chloe told KPRC 2.

Chole and her family had just moved to Spring and found a new dentist near their home, one they thought would be a good fit.

"It looked very kid-friendly. I figured I'd try it out," said Chloe's father, Joseph Tobias.

Chloe was simply going in for a routine checkup. But before it was over, Tobias was told Chloe would need fillings, and they'd do the work the same day.

"They had us come in and sign some paperwork. It was all digital on a computer. There was probably 15-20 different boxes we had to initial. We went through it within seconds, it was really quick, just initial, initial, initial. Not really an explanation on what we were doing," Tobias said.

Tobias wasn't allowed in the room and he had no idea the dentist would be restraining Chloe using a device called a papoose.

"It wasn't until after everything was done and I got it out of my daughter. My daughter is the one who explained it to me. She was in tears, she was shaking, she was really, really scared. She said, 'They tied me down. They held me down with their hands.' She went into fear mode, which I think any child would that's being tied to a table," Tobias said.

The family of 4-year-old Nevaeh Hall didn't know she was being restrained at her dentist's office, either. According to a lawsuit that has been settled, during a 2016 dental visit, Nevaeh was tied down and given large doses of anesthesia. She suffered a massive seizure and today she lives with severe brain damage.

"Everything has changed. She was a normal 4-year-old. So she's totally dependent, like a newborn baby again," said Nevaeh's mother, Clarissa Clark.

The dentist lost her license, but Nevaeh lost much more.

"From now on, I'll be asking dentist if they use a papoose board or if they support that it any way and she'll never go back in a room by herself again. I can't let her go through that again," Joseph Tobias told KPRC 2.

Houston dentist Terri Alani said using a papoose should be a very rare occurrence in any dental office.

That, he said, is "basically a last resort, which protects the patient, protects the dentist, when the child has uncontrollable movements, maybe they have behavioral issues," Alani said.

She said parents should be allowed in the room when their child is being treated. Alani said parents should also schedule a consultation, along with their child, before any treatment of any kind is performed, so they become familiar with the dentist, the surroundings and the equipment.

"I also would recommend for parents to take their children to a pediatric dentist because they have advanced training in taking care of children," Alani said.

Remember to always read all disclosures carefully before you sign or initial anything on paper or electronically, so you know exactly what procedures will be performed on your child. Ask questions and request to be in the room with your child. And ask the dentist directly if they plan to restrain or sedate your child.