Mission Complete: Athlete Receives Dentures after 12-Month Journey

August 6, 2013

Just one year ago, Special Olympics Wisconsin (SOWI) athlete, Kenny Canon, felt paralyzed by unbearable tooth pain from long-neglected dental care. When Kenny’s pain resulted in a trip to the emergency room, his mother began to worry. 

“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.” 

Without dental insurance, the Canon family didn’t feel they could afford to have Kenny or his brother, Cody, visit the dentist for regular cleanings or examinations. The lack of adequate healthcare services is all too common among many individuals with intellectual disabilities. This disparity prompted Special Olympics to develop Healthy Athletes®, an initiative that seeks to improve each athlete’s ability to train and compete through healthcare screening, exams and education.

At the 2012 State Summer Games, Kenny was screened by volunteer dentists at Special Smiles, a Healthy Athletes discipline that focuses on providing dental hygiene and education to Special Olympics athletes. During this event, Kenny was flagged as needing urgent dental care and was referred to the Wisconsin Dental Association (WDA) and WDA Foundation Mission of Mercy. 

Mission of Mercy, which provides free and critical dental care to individuals with limited financial resources, was a blessing for Kenny and his mother. Despite having 12 teeth extracted, Kenny left the clinic without the pain that had plagued him for so many years. 

A year after the extractions, Kenny received a full set of upper dentures at the 2013 Mission of Mercy in Lake Geneva. Dr. Mark Huberty fitted Kenny for his dentures at the 5th annual charitable event. 

“You need your front teeth to pronounce certain letters,” said Dr. Huberty. “These will help him talk better, eat better, and just feel better.”

“I got tears in my eyes just remembering everything he had gone through,” said Shirley. “It’s amazing what they do [at Mission of Mercy].” 

Kenny’s journey may have been a painful one, but with his new dentures, and increased confidence, he has something to smile about. 


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