CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – A mother in Chesterfield said her young daughter’s last dental visit was disturbing. Tracy Sikes said she was surprised to learn that some dentists use a little-known technique to calm a hysterical child in a procedure called a ‘hand-over-mouth’.
The practice is no longer taught in local dental schools, frowned upon by some prominent dental groups, and even viewed as abusive by some dentists. Still, it is considered acceptable practice in Virginia.
Emily, 9-year-old daughter of Sikes, had an appointment at Virginia Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics on Hull Street Road to style a molar tooth. Sikes said his daughter left the dentist’s office distraught, swollen and in pain.
“She was just crying,” Sikes said, “she was extremely upset.”
The mother admits that dental care can be uncomfortable and scary for the children at times. So she insisted on her daughter in the hope of better understanding what had happened during the visit.
Sikes said: “She said she was crying and screaming because it hurt when he was drilling.”
However, what her daughter told her next about how dentist Dr Steven Lubbe handled her pain and fear left Mom stunned.
“She told me the dentist put her hand over her mouth and leaned over and told her to stop crying,” Sikes said. “When I hear an adult man put his hand over my daughter’s mouth while she is in pain and upset, of course it brings out the mother bear. ”
This prompted Sikes to share his daughter’s emotional selfie taken after the procedure and to talk about it on Facebook. This post received over 800 comments and over 1,000 shares. This is personal information that Sikes said she would not normally share.
“In this case, I think people really needed to know. I was so shocked that someone was doing this, ”she said.
Even more alarming for Sikes, she learned that Emily was locked up. She said: “Her hands were apparently already held back by the assistants.”
Sikes began to research and learned that the dentist apparently used the technique called “the hand over the mouth”.
“Hand over mouth is a form of dentist trying to control a child’s behavior,” explained Dr. Roger Wood.
Wood, a retired pediatric dentist, says the method, which began in the 1920s, was taught to dentists as a way to control an unruly child during a procedure.
“They cry so they put their hand over their mouth to suffocate them and tell them that they will remove their hand if they stop crying,” he said.
Wood, who served on the Virginia Board of Dentistry, is opposed to the technique.
“I am totally against it. I’ve never used it, ”Wood said. “I just feel like there are better ways to do it.”
Wood is not alone in his convictions. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry told 8News that hand-over-mouth is no longer a behavioral guidance technique included in the AAPD best practice. It was dropped from their clinical guidelines 16 years ago.
“It tells me that no dentist should use it,” Sikes said.
Yet the Virginia Department of Health Professions tells us, “The Virginia Board of Dentistry does not have a statute, regulation, or guidance document governing the use of a ‘hand-over-mouth’ technique.
Medical records show that in 2006 Dr Lubbe was charged with using excessive force to restrain a child. A doctor noted bruises on the child’s cheeks, nose and neck. The case was then dismissed without clear evidence of undue hardship. Sikes filed his own complaint with the Health Professions Department, Civil Rights Bureau and Chesterfield Police.
“The more people hear about this, maybe someone will stop it,” Sikes said.
Chesterfield Police told us that they had consulted with the Commonwealth Prosecutor and that the incident was deemed not to have reached the level of a felony. 8News has contacted Dr Lubbe and the firm on several occasions for an interview.
We were told in part, “Patient privacy laws don’t allow us to comment on a specific situation, but our pediatric patients are given a variety of soothing options.
8News specifically asked if the practice uses the hand over the mouth. All we were told was, “If a patient was upset, we immediately stop the cleanse or procedure and help them feel comfortable before going ahead or rescheduling.” “.
Dr. Wood thinks that if the hand over the mouth is used, the parent should be in the room.
“And you should explain it in full,” he added.
Sikes claims Emily’s father was kept in the waiting room and was never consulted. The family received a consent form to sign when they started the practice. He mentions that the dentist or assistant can “gently stabilize the child’s head to control the movement of the legs.”
Sikes told 8News: “Nothing in this consent form would give me any clue that hand over mouth would be used. I think more parents need to be aware of the hand over mouth.
Pediatric Dentistry and Virginia Orthodontics said parents are welcome to join their children in the examination room. The firm added that more than 20,000 patients have trusted it for more than 55 years.
View the dentist’s full statement here.