Dental care provided to Special Olympics athletes

by Sydnie Hochstein, College of Dentistry | August 11, 2017

Image with caption: Darlene Carritt, instructor in the department of dental hygiene (left) and Jennifer Kallio, D.D.S., assistant professor in the department of adult restorative dentistry, conduct an oral health screening on a Special Olympics Nebraska athlete. Photo by Margaret Cain.

Darlene Carritt, instructor in the department of dental hygiene (left) and Jennifer Kallio, D.D.S., assistant professor in the department of adult restorative dentistry, conduct an oral health screening on a Special Olympics Nebraska athlete. Photo by Margaret Cain.

Thirteen faculty, student and staff members from the College of Dentistry provided free dental screenings to more than 60 athletes at the Special Olympics Nebraska 2017 Fall Games in Lincoln.

The second annual dental screening event -- dubbed Special Smiles -- was part of the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes initiative, which also offers other services such as vision and hearing screenings, sports physicals, nutrition education and information on social services. The event was held at Abbott Sports Complex on Aug. 5.

College of Dentistry volunteers provided oral screening assessments performed by dentists, who then completed written documentation of the status and needs of each athlete.

picture disc.
Dental hygiene student Amanda Switzer provides oral health education to a Special Olympics Nebraska athlete. Photo by Margaret Cain.
Dental hygiene students provided personalized preventive oral health instruction with faculty supervision, and an estimated 25 soccer and flag football athletes were fitted for and given plastic mouth guards. Volunteers also handed out goodie bags filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and mouthwash.

Not only does the Special Smiles initiative help improve the oral health and access to dental care for Special Olympics athletes, it also provides real-life training for oral health professionals and students about the needs of people with intellectual disabilities.

Jennifer Kallio, D.D.S., assistant professor in the department of adult restorative dentistry, enjoys volunteering because the cause is near and dear to her heart - she has two special needs children and understands some of the day-to-day difficulties the athletes and their families face.

She also enjoys meeting the athletes and seeing their enthusiasm for their sport and their team.

"Many of the athletes have good oral hygiene and are well cared for by their loved ones. However, occasionally we will see an athlete that needs urgent attention and that is why it is so important to provide the screenings," she said. "We are potentially preventing an emergency situation for that family, and we are able to help them to establish a dental home."

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