Familiarisation, desensitisation and behaviour support

You may need extra preparation before you are comfortable seeing the dentist or having certain procedures done. This may be because of anxiety, unfamiliarity with a new dentist or many other reasons. People who need additional preparation include those with dental phobia, intellectual disability, autism and survivors of trauma or assault.

There are many strategies that we can use to help you:

  • We will ask for information to help prepare for dental visits. This could include your dental history, information about likes and dislikes, learning styles, rewards, sensory issues and triggers to avoid.
  • Making time to visit to the dental clinic, meet the staff and look around before having a checkup.
  • Taking photos of the clinic to introduce new people, environments, tools and procedures.
  • Working gently at a pace that you can manage.
  • Having a sign system to signal when you need to stop or have a break.
  • Having a distraction (e.g. bringing an iPad to watch or some music to listen to).
  • Modelling – showing an example of how to do something, and practising at home.
  • Shaping – positive reinforcement with a reward or praise as a person gets closer to achieving a goal, even if it isn’t perfect yet.
  • Exposure therapy/Desensitisation – this involves gradual exposure to an object or situation that causes fear, while practising relaxation/coping techniques. Sometimes a psychologist is involved, and if you wish, we can coordinate care so that they start the process before you visit the dental clinic.

We allow additional time in our appointments so that you will not feel rushed. We understand that overcoming fear takes time, patience and trust, and we look forward to developing a warm and personal relationship with each of you and your families

You can download our social story for a visit to the dentist. This has been updated to include changes we have made due to COVID-19. 

If you would like us to send pictures to make your own social story, please call our office on (03) 9877 8035 or email admin@specialneedsdental.com.au.

Your Dental Health by Inclusion Design Lab. Videos about getting a dental check-up, types of dental equipment, and the dental x-ray machine.

Sally’s Visit to the Dentist – Preparing for Positive Dental Visits by Dental Health Services Victoria. Follow Sally as she visits her dentist.

Visual Schedules – a visual schedule is a series of pictures used to demonstrate the steps in an activity. It may also be in writing. A visual schedule can be a helpful way of helping a person see what will happen next in a procedure.

Social Stories – a social story is a short story that describes social cues and common responses in a situation. It explains what happens and why a situation occurs. Social stories can be used to prepare for an uncertain event, or to provide a person with a strategy to deal with an event. The story should be read to the person several times before the dental visit.

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