Earlier this month, students in Marquette University’s School of Dentistry produced a fantastic video geared toward Special Olympics athletes to help them feel more comfortable while visiting the dentist. The video came from students in the program’s Special Care Dentistry Association, a group dedicated to improving oral health for people with special needs. Marquette is one of only six schools in the country with an SCDA student group. We talked to third-year dental student Michael Feeney, who helped created the video, for a Q&A about how the video came to be and and why focusing on the oral health of Special Olympics athletes is so important.
SOWI: Can you tell us a little bit about the Marquette Special Needs Dentistry Club and what your role in the group is?
Feeney: The Marquette SCDA chapter aims to promote oral health for patients with special healthcare needs. Recently, having joined the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry, we’ve added AADMD to our list of letters. You can catch Marquette AADMD-SCDA out at community events helping set up, giving oral hygiene instruction, and even joining in on the fun. My personal role in SCDA is a Community Service Outreach member, and along with my team, I seek out events both local and statewide that our members could participate in or host.
SOWI: How did you get interested in this group and working with people with special needs?
Feeney: A big reason that I wanted to get involved in special needs healthcare was my mom. My mom graduated with a teaching degree with an emphasis on special needs students and she’s been an amazing elementary teacher for 32 years. She’s shown me what kindness, education, and dedication can do for her students and that has been a really big influence on me.
SOWI: Why did you and your classmates decide to create this video? What was the goal of the video and what was your role in making it?
Feeney: We decided to make this video partly because of COVID since in-person events have been far and few between at times. As we continued towards making it, we soon realized how a video that could be shared could really be a useful resource for a lot of organizations and people.
The main goal of the video we really wanted to address was educating people on what a dental visit would entail. With it also being in a step-by-step video format, we hoped to also familiarize people with dentistry for those who may not have had any experience with it.
My role in the video was working on the script of what a dental visit in its entirety may entail as well as directing the filming and having a few lines in the video, both of which I got a lot of help with from all our SCDA and SOWI volunteers.
SOWI: Have you worked with our athletes at Special Smiles clinics? If so, what has that experience been like?
Feeney: Yes I have! Special Smiles has been a great program we have worked with and Missy Schoenbrodt has been fantastic with getting us involved. We have helped with one golf tournament this fall, collaborated with them for the video and hope to help with more events in the future.
SOWI: Why do you think it’s important for dentistry students to work with people with special needs during their training?
Feeney: Dental school is a time to experience as much of the dental profession as you can among different specialties, professionals, and your peers. Most of all, since we are going to be serving the public for the rest of our careers, dental students need a diverse experience when it comes to the populations they serve, including having experience with patients with special needs.
Going out into the community, helping with events and getting to know these organizations and wonderful people through our Marquette chapter of SCDA can only help with knowing how to better serve special need patients and to become better dentists because of it.
SOWI: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Feeney: I just appreciate the opportunity we had to make this video for SOWI and other organizations that could benefit from it. The feedback we’ve gotten so far has been amazing, and every single person who helped with the video has been so happy to hear that.
I’d like to thank all those who volunteered in any way for the video, the SOWI and Special Smiles for making this possible to show to so many special care individuals and families, and Dr. Kyle Menne for allowing us to use his practice for a lot of the filming.
I hope that it really helps to make a visit to the dentist a little bit more familiar and fun for everyone involved, and we hope to see everyone in person again as soon as we can!