This study examined the relationship between didactic instruction related to special needs patients and dental students' expectations of and reported comfort levels in treating those with intellectual disabilities. The relationship between students' experience with individuals with intellectual disabilities and their expectations and comfort levels was also assessed. Third-year students were surveyed immediately before and one week, six months, and one year after a lecture on management of patients with developmental disabilities. Students indicated their previous experience with individuals with intellectual disabilities, assessment of their general capabilities (i.e., life function skills) and dental capabilities, and current and anticipated comfort levels related to their treatment. Repeated measures ANOVA indicated significantly higher expectations of general and dental capabilities after instruction (p<0.05), but no change in comfort levels. At one-year follow-up, students' expectations were still significantly higher than at baseline. Regression analyses indicated significant positive relationships between experience and baseline comfort levels (p<0.05), but no significant relationship between experience and expectations of general or dental capabilities. Based on these findings and review of the literature, it is recommended that curricula include experiential learning with reflective components in order to develop students' comfort level in treating special needs populations.