Editor’s Note: Dr. Greg Grillo reached out with a desire to share dental information in support of Canadian Down Syndrome Week.  The words and opinions expressed are his own and that of his team.  Please visit dentably.com for more information.  

Down Syndrome and The Dentist, How to Prepare For Your Child’s First Visit 

The first trip to the dentist can be a scary and stressful experience for any child, and that’s even truer for those with Down syndrome. Preparing for the first visit is key to making sure it is successful, and helps set the tone for future visits. I’ve been practicing dentistry for over 17 years, and have seen children from all walks of life through their first appointment. Let’s look at what to expect on that first appointment, and how you can help make sure it goes as smooth as possible.

Many Different Stimuli

One of the biggest issues for children with Down syndrome on their first dental visit is the large amount of stimuli. This ranges from visual things such as bright lights to loud noises like drills and cleaning tools. These all can be a bit overwhelming, so it’s important to prepare for them ahead of time.

Things like sunglasses or earplugs are both ideas for mitigating some of these stimuli. You know your child better than anyone else, so think about what types of things might be triggers for them while at the dentist. Then, bring any concerns to the dentist, and they can help make sure your child’s appointment is pleasant.

You can also prepare with things like video at home. Showing your child the process in a more comfortable environment can help prepare them for the real thing later on.

Meeting New People

Another big part of visiting the dentist is meeting new people. This obviously includes the dentist, but you’ll also meet the hygienist, the receptionist, and maybe even other patients. That’s potentially a lot of new people in one day.

If this is something that might be a concern for you and your child try setting up a desensitization appointment ahead of time. Spending a few minutes meeting the staff before the appointment can help make the actual appointment day easier. It also helps your child meet new people during a time where they are not already nervous about the cleaning to come.

Planning For The Future

While the first appointment might be stressful, it’s important to think about the future as dental care is a lifelong activity. You’ll want to set up an appointment and cleaning every 6 months for your child, so you’ll be going back many times.

Help them understand this, and the importance of going to the dentist for a lifelong healthy mouth. One thing that can help is working with the same staff and dentist on every subsequent visit. This can help them get familiar with who they’re working with, and also mitigate some of the apprehension of meeting new people each time.

The first visit is always a bit tense, but with proper planning you can help make sure it goes great. Dental care is a lifelong habit, so building that expectation young and helping your child understand that is key to helping them maintain their dental health. As always, if you have any concerns always talk to your dentist; they’re here to help and never want a child to miss out on receiving the proper dental care they deserve.

Dr. Greg Grillo has been a practicing dentist in Washington State for more than 17 years. After studying at the University of Washington, Dr. Grillo received a bachelor’s degree with honors before attending the School of Dentistry on the same campus.


Dr. Grillo is committed to caring for families and educating his patients about the health benefits that come with a good oral hygiene routine. This is especially true for families that have children with autism, Down syndrome and other needs. As a valuable member of the Dentably team, Dr. Grillo is able to share his expertise with you to make your next appointment at the dentist a comfortable experience.

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