Special Smiles is one of the core components of the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes initiative, created to focus attention on the overall health issues facing Special Olympics athletes. The mission of Special Smiles is to increase access to dental care for Special Olympics athletes, as well as all people with intellectual disabilities.
Dental screenings are used as a means to increase awareness of the state of the athletes’ oral health for the athletes themselves, as well as their parents and/or caregivers. Athletes are given hygiene education to help ensure they are doing an adequate job of brushing and flossing, as well as nutritional education to understand how their diet affects their total health.
At Special Smiles screenings, dental professionals provide screenings, health education and prevention services and refer athletes for follow-up care. Athletes are given a new toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss. Free mouth guards are provided for athletes competing in contact or high-risk sports. Athletes that have completed a permission slip also receive a fluoride varnish.
Special Smiles screenings throughout the US have found that a large percentage of our athletes are unaware of the condition of their oral health.
- 47% have periodontal conditions
- 24% have untreated tooth decay
- 12% have dental pain
- 10% are in need of urgent care
Pradeep Bhagavatula, DDS, MPH, MS
Sharri Crowe, RDH, BSDH, MS
Anne Hvizdak, BSDH, CDHD
Kyle Menne, DDS
Eileen Sabel, RDH
For more information on Special Smiles, please contact Melissa Schoenbrodt, Director of Health Programs.
Since 2002, Delta Dental of Wisconsin has been the exclusive statewide partner of the Special Olympics Special Smiles program that provides oral health screenings, education, fluoride varnish, and fitted mouth guard to athletes at the four major Special Olympic events around Wisconsin.
“Thanks to the amazing work of volunteers and staff at Special Olympics of Wisconsin, we are seeing positive results; the data shows the number of athletes with untreated decay is decreasing. Partnering with Special Olympics to improve the smiles of these athletes truly exemplifies our mission.”
-Ann Boson, director of Delta Dental of Wisconsin’s Charitable Fund