On June 12th 2010, our office participated in the Special Olympics held at St. Christopher’s School here in Richmond, Virginia. We supported the athletes by participating in the Special Smiles program and provided oral health exams and oral health instruction in between sporting events.
About Special Smiles
[pullquote]Special Smiles believes that providing the athletes with instructions on how to improve their oral health, solutions to chronic dental problems, and mouthguards, can enhance the athlete’s overall health and performance.[/pullquote]Special Smiles began in 1993 to increase access to dental care for Special Olympics althetes, as well as all people with intellectual disabilities. The program relies on volunteer pediatric dentists, dental students, dental hygienists, and dental assistants.
We provided the athletes with a dental exam, oral hygeine instructions, a mouthguard, nutritional information, toothbrush/toothpaste/floss, and any necessary referrals if treatment was necessary.
Access to Quality Care
No one can fully understand how difficult it can be for patients with special needs to find the dental care they desperately need and deserve. Many dentists do not actively seek patients with special needs – for many reasons – many times due to a lack of training with special needs patients in dental school. One of the primary objectives of Special Smiles is to increase the number of dental professionals who will serve people with intellectual disabilities in their practices and clinics. This is accomplished by encouraging dental students, as well as practicing dentists, to conduct screenings at Special Smiles events.
Specialized Training for Special Needs Patients
Pediatric dental specialists are very comfortable satisfying the dental needs of special needs patients. In fact, much of our training was spent learning about children with specific medical, behavioral, developmental, and learning issues. As pediatric dentists, we commit to help patients with special health care needs succeed in achieving dental health so that they may develop to their maximum ability.
Volunteering at the Special Olympics was an experience we won’t forget. While we treat many patients with special needs every day in our office, it’s nice to have a day that highlights and helps satisfy the need for dental care for children and adults with special needs.