Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine pediatric dentists' current practices and the perceptions about parents' opinions and how those parental preferences regarding dental materials influence dentists' practices.
Methods: A questionnaire was sent to 500 randomly selected active members of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Twenty-five items queried demographics, use of restorative materials, perceptions of parents' attitudes towards materials, and dentists' reactions to parents' concerns.
Results: The survey response rate was 61%. Parental concerns about materials in decreasing order were: (1) esthetics; (2) cost; (3) toxicity; and (4) durability. Parents' greatest concerns about stainless steel crowns were: (1) esthetics; and (2) cost. Among respondents, 43% followed parental preferences when challenged, and 28% currently never use amalgam. Amalgam use and the dentists' perception of parental challenge were each related to the socioeconomic status of the practice population, with lower socioeconomic practices feeling less parental challenge than higher socioeconomic practices and being more likely to use amalgam than "white" filling materials (P = .001).
Conclusions: Mercury concerns occur more frequently with higher than lower socioeconomic status parents (P = .002). Stainless steel crowns are challenged based on esthetics and cost. When confronted, many pediatric dentists (43%) follow parental preferences, even when that action is contrary to their initial clinical judgment.