Special Olympics Wisconsin (SOWI) basketball player Kenny Canon, 34, was smiling ear to ear when he found out his team had no losses that season and had qualified for the SOWI State Indoor Sports Tournament the first weekend in April. Judging from Kenny’s smile, it’s hard to believe that just 11 months ago, this all-star athlete couldn’t focus on the game because he was nearly paralyzed by tooth pain.
“He had toothaches, was in a lot of pain and said he was dizzy,” said Kenny’s mother, Shirley. “He told me he thought he was going to die.”
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare to see a child in pain. It’s even worse when you can’t make them feel better. It wasn’t until Kenny went to the State Summer Games in June 2012 that volunteer dentists screened his oral health at Special Smiles, a Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® discipline which seeks to improve, through better health, each athlete’s ability to train and compete.
During the event, Kenny was flagged as needing urgent dental care. Three weeks later, SOWI teamed up with the Wisconsin Dental Association (WDA) and WDA Foundation to provide free critical dental care to Kenny at the WDA Mission of Mercy, an event that helps people like Kenny who have limited financial resources or are unable to visit a dental office.
It was at Mission of Mercy that dentists extracted 12 of Kenny’s teeth with hopes of providing dentures in 12 months if they had healed.
“It is difficult for anyone to loose so many teeth. There are social and psychological aspects to take into consideration, but after discussing the options and expectations to Kenny, we were able to see that he would be able to tolerate this,” said Dr. Kyle Menne, who performed the extractions. “Replacing these teeth with removable prosthetic teeth is important to help improve his esthetics, chewing function, etc.”
This April, Kenny returned to the dentist for the first time since his extractions when he visited Special Smiles at the Special Olympics State Indoor Sports Tournament. That’s where he had a surprise encounter.
“He got to see to see the very same dentist who performed the teeth extractions at Mission of Mercy!” exclaimed Shirley.
“It was very important that we were able to see Kenny at this April’s Special Smiles event because we were able to follow up with him to see how he was doing and to also see if he followed our recommendation to have the lower teeth restored,” said Dr. Menne. “We saw that these teeth had not been restored and SOWI was able to help initiate the follow up care that he needs to complete his treatment plan.”
According to Dr. Menne, Kenny should be able to receive dentures on his top teeth at the Mission of Mercy event this June, a full year after the extractions.
“It just scares me thinking about what could have happened if he hadn’t found out about Healthy Athletes and Mission of Mercy,” said Shirley. “He probably could have died his teeth hurt so badly. I think about that a lot.”
Stay tuned as we chart Kenny’s road to recovery. For more information about upcoming Healthy Athletes events, visit www.SpecialOlympicsWisconsin.org.