Story first published on specialolympics.org.
Good dental care can make a huge difference in the lives of Special Olympics athletes. At a recent event, the Wisconsin Dental Association partnered with Special Olympics to help athletes with urgent dental needs get the caring attention they deserve.
Jordan and Waylon
Special Olympics athletes sometimes aren’t able to communicate their dental pain and discomfort. At a recent event, about 200 dentists and more than 1,000 volunteers transformed a conference center into an immense dental office at the 8th annual Mission of Mercy in Eau Claire, Wisc. They were there to pay careful attention to Special Olympics athletes in dental distress.
The Wisconsin Dental Association and WDA Foundation provide free dental care through the Mission of Mercy once a year event. Mission of Mercy, or MoM, is a two-day event that provides free dental care. In 2016, charitable dental care valued at more than $964,000 was provided to 1,064 patients at MoM.
The WDA partners with Special Olympics Wisconsin to make sure its athletes identified with urgent dental needs at Special Smiles events have the opportunity to receive free restorative care at MoM.
Melissa Schoenbrodt, Director of Health Programs at Special Olympics Wisconsin, has been to every MoM event since Special Olympics Wisconsin has started their partnership. “Several parents have told me over the years that their athletes have been in pain for months, so much that it effects them getting a good night’s sleep,” she said. “Athletes have reported being embarrassed to smile until they get a front tooth repaired or a partial flipper made.”
She adds, “Unfortunately people with intellectual disabilities might not be able to communicate their pain as well as others so Healthy Athletes Special Smiles is a way we can flag athletes at state tournaments who have dental issues. And with our partnership with the Wisconsin Dental Association we can get our athletes the help they need, which then leads to an overall healthier lifestyle.”
Jordan Loper and Waylon Hogenkamp, of Veroqua, are examples. One week before MoM, they were identified as having urgent oral health needs at a Special Smiles event at the SOWI State Summer Games in Stevens Point. Special Smiles is a dental screening that is part of Special Olympics Healthy Athletes. It’s supported by Delta Dental of Wisconsin.
Jordan needed to have a front tooth removed and replaced. Waylon had several areas of decay throughout his mouth.
“Jordan and Waylon both said they were in pain,” said Glen Loper who is Jordan’s grandfather, caretaker, and Special Olympics co-agency manager. “For Jordan, the importance of a smile can really affect his self-esteem. He’s a good kid and hopefully this can help him have more of a positive outlook not just when playing sports but in overall life. It’s incredible what they do at MoM and Healthy Athletes and I’m really glad they could do this for him.”
Jordan received a new partial denture for his front tooth and Waylon had 5 extractions throughout his mouth, which allowed dentists to fix any infections from the decay. As for Jordan, he just began his softball season and is looking forward to going back to school with a new smile. He hopes this will help him with his confidence and social interaction with other students.
“It’s going to change my life,” Jordan said. “I have a new smile.”