Preparing for positive dental visits

The dental clinic can be an environment that some people need time and support to get used to. Here are some ideas:

Start preparing early

Always speak positively about the dental clinic and the dental team, and especially in the lead up to a dental visit.

Use a person’s preferred communication method/s to explain why it’s important to visit the dental clinic and some of the things that might happen there. For example:

Social stories

Social stories can help some people to become more comfortable with a situation, event, or process.

For a dental visit, this might mean taking photos of the clinic building, waiting room, staff, equipment, etc. and using those photos to make a story about that person’s visit to that clinic.

Picture Communication Symbols

Dental Health Services Victoria recently partnered with Scope Australia and Boardmaker to develop a set of dental Picture Communication Symbols in line with the current oral health guidelines.

Find the complete dental set on the Resources page.

Videos

Watch some short videos about positive dental visits, such as Sally’s Visit to the Dentist below.

Preparing for positive dental visits. Follow Sally as she visits her dentist. It is hoped that Sally’s story can help others to prepare for positive dental visits by making them feel more comfortable about what to expect.

Help the clinic prepare

The dental team will want to know what they can do to make their patients feel most comfortable.

When making a dental appointment, it may be useful for the clinic to know:

  • physical, sensory or other needs
  • the person’s preferred communication style
  • what has worked well (or not well) with past health care visits
  • any particular worries about the visit
  • that the person is a client of a disability service.

Use the opportunity to ask any other questions, such as how to get there, what to bring, payment, etc.

Consider a familiarisation plan

If you support someone who is very anxious about dental visits, talk to the clinic about developing a familiarisation plan which sets out the key steps that person would need to achieve for them to have a dental visit at that clinic.

Guided by the person, slowly build up the exposure to each stage of the dental visit. For example, you could start with sitting in the car outside the clinic. You might do this a number of times until the person is comfortable with the step. In the next stage, you might walk from the car to the entrance.

Each step is repeated until the person is ok with it and ready to move on to the next one. If the person is not comfortable, stop and try the step again another time. Let this happen over as long a time as is needed.

This approach can take a long time, but can have long-lasting benefits. You can ask to speak to the clinic’s Practice Manager to help with this process.

Share information

Make sure any information from the dental visit moves from the clinic to home by writing them in the person’s oral health care plan (or other health plan) straight away.

Include any information about approaches that worked well or didn’t work well. This will help next support who accompanies the person to their dental visit give the most appropriate support.