Growing Great Grins Provides Thoughtful Pediatric Dentistry; They created a program that helps children with special needs overcome dental challenges

By: Rachel Norton
| Published 04/29/2021


THE WOODLANDS, TX — Growing Great Grins - The Woodlands Dental Group goes past the idea of basic dentistry. It cares for the dental needs of all children through a lens of compassion, patience, and sensitivity.

When Dr. Leslie Blackburn, Pediatric Dentist at Growing Great Grins, saw firsthand the struggle that children with special needs face when they visit the dentist, she decided that there had to be a better way; a way that allows those children to feel safe and unthreatened, and eases stress for the entire family.

Dr. Blackburn attended Brigham Young University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology in 2003. She received her Doctorate of Dental Surgery and also a Masters of Science and Dental Education in 2012 from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in New York. Her final leg of education was at Yale University, where she received her certificate in Pediatric Dentistry in 2014.

Her psychology degree and on-the-job experience gave her the insight and knowledge needed to create a dental program fit for children with unique challenges.

“I started looking into what they do in therapy,” she said. She wanted to find out how therapists help similar patients cope with unfamiliar, or uncomfortable situations.

“The answer is desensitization over time,” she realized. And that is the key element in the Overcoming Dental Challenges program.

How Overcoming Dental Challenges works:

Overcoming Dental Challenges basically breaks the dental appointment into a series of tiny steps. It gradually introduces preventative dentistry and helps children become familiar and comfortable with the normal dental appointment. The office blocks time in their schedule to move at a child’s pace and build a true, lasting relationship with them.

A child may go through multiple stages in one visit and then “stall” on a single stage for a few visits before beginning to progress again, or a child may progress step-by-step - either way is ok! Each child is unique and may find places within the stages where they get “stuck” or overwhelmed. If that happens, staging will stop for the present moment and the team will pick back up at a later date.

“Infinite time, that's what we're buying here,” said Dr. Blackburn. What the team does with this infinite time is start the patient at wherever their comfortable level is and push them just slightly, then stop. If that means a child walks into the office and immediately becomes overwhelmed, then walking into the office was the accomplishment for the day. The team will end the session there and see the child again in one to two weeks to continue the process. The goal is to slowly acclimate the child over time until they are able to comfortably sit through a dental exam, a dental cleaning, and eventually a dental procedure.

• Consistency is key - that’s why each child stays with the same staff members throughout, and is taken to the same room each time. If they prefer a certain movie, that movie will be played during every visit. Noise and stimulation are also limited through the use of a separate room that has a door and low lighting.

What does this program require from you - the parent or guardian?
Desensitization is most effective when the experiences are still fresh in your child’s mind. You will be asked to come to the office bi-weekly, weekly, or at most, bi-monthly while the staging is in effect. This will allow your child to get the maximum benefit from the technique.

What does this program include dentistry-wise?

Overcoming Dental Challenges includes:
• The initial comprehensive exam
• 5 cleanings
• UNLIMITED staging visits
• And special prizes for important milestones

It is meant to be a lifetime program. Meaning, if your child “stalls” at any stage, the program can pause until they have gained more coping skills.

What does the program cost?

The services actually come at a discount, which the Growing Great Grins team is proud to offer.

Services include:
• Initial Cleaning Visit - No charge (Actual cost is $201)
• 5 x Cleaning Visits - $400 (54% discount with actual cost at $875)
• Staging Visits - $850 (55% discount with actual cost at $1,872 or more)
• Special Prizes - No charge (Actual cost is $140)
• Total - $1,250 (Actual cost is $3,088)


Children who may not need this extra care are treated with equal consideration at Growing Great Grins. They even have TVs on the ceiling to keep the little ones entertained during their cleanings and procedures!

The various dental services offered, include:
• Cosmetic Dentistry
• Restorative Dentistry
• General Dentistry
• Laser Dentistry
• Sedation Dentistry

The team of strong and nurturing women who work at Growing Great Grins provide professionalism with a tenderness that is unmatched - this team truly looks after each child as if they were their own.

For further information, please visit the Growing Great Grins website at

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