Special Olympics Wisconsin’s Special Smiles® program was named a grant recipient from Delta Dental of Wisconsin Foundation this spring. The award, totaling $40,000, is to be implemented for programming throughout the 2022 calendar year.
Special Smiles provides dental screenings, personal oral hygiene instruction, sport mouth guards, and fluoride varnish treatment for Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes. Special Smiles strives to increase access to dental care for athletes, educate dental professionals about the oral health problems people with intellectual disabilities (ID) face, and provide hands-on training for these professionals to better treat people with ID.
“Special Olympics Wisconsin is incredibly thankful for the people of Delta Dental of Wisconsin Foundation and the support it provides our Special Smiles programming,” SOWI Senior Director of Health Programs Missy Schoenbrodt said. “Studies have shown that nearly half of SO athletes nationwide face some sort of periodontal conditions, with nearly a quarter having untreated tooth decay. Funding from this grant helps combat those numbers across Wisconsin, directly improving the lives of our SOWI community.”
By offering Special Smiles screenings at four SOWI competitions throughout the year and oral health education stations at local sports tournaments, SOWI facilitates access to oral health education and services for athletes. The grant from Delta Dental of Wisconsin Foundation also helps offset costs to athletes who do not have a dental home at two days of free restorative care, called “SO Gives Athletes a Smile Day.”
These events offer tremendous learning opportunities for dentists, hygienists, and students entering the oral healthcare field. About 25% of Special Smiles event volunteers do so for the first time, providing hands-on learning experiences in assisting individuals with ID.
For staffing at Special Smiles events, SOWI collaborates with student and faculty volunteers from Marquette University Dental School and numerous statewide dental hygienist programs including Fox Valley, Northcentral, and Waukesha County technical colleges. SOWI also partners with Warren Family Dental in Madison and Boudry Dental in Fond du Lac, which donate facilities and dental supplies needed for SO Gives Athletes a Smile Day.
Special Smiles is one of eight disciplines in the Healthy Athletes® program designed to help athletes improve their health and fitness. Across all Healthy Athletes programs, SOWI athletes receive free screenings in a fun, welcoming environment that removes the anxiety and fear individuals with ID often experience when faced with a visit to the dentist or doctor.
Since 2002, Delta Dental of Wisconsin has been the exclusive statewide partner of Special Olympics Wisconsin’s Special Smiles program.
More information about Special Olympics Wisconsin’s Special Smiles program can be found here.
Check out our Flickr album from the most recent Special Smiles event at Indoor Sports Tournament.