Special Olympics Special Smiles has demonstrated remarkable success in its mission: increasing access to dental care for Special Olympics athletes, as well as all people with intellectual disabilities. Dental screenings are used as a means to increase awareness of the state of the athletes’ oral health for the athletes themselves, as well as their parents and/or caregivers.
Providing solutions to chronic dental problems, or providing an athlete with a mouth guard, can enhance the athlete’s performance. At a Special Smiles screening, Special Olympics athletes are provided with the following:
- Hygiene education to help ensure they are doing an adequate job of brushing and flossing
- “Goody bag” containing toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
- Nutritional education to understand how their diet affects their total health
- List of dentists/clinics in their area who will treat patients with special needs (should they have difficulty finding a dentist)
- Free mouth guards (at most locations) for athletes competing in contact or high-risk sports
Clinical supplies for the screenings and products for the “goody bags” given to each participating athlete are supplied or paid for by the generous support of our Special Smiles Partners.
Data is collected for each athlete who receives a dental screening, and compiled for analysis. This generates a snapshot of the oral health of a representative sample of the hundreds of Special Olympics athletes in Nigeria. These data are used to encourage more dental schools to increase the special needs instruction they offer, and to demonstrate to governments of all levels that access to oral health providers for this population must be increased.
One of the primary objectives of Special Smiles is to increase the number of dental professionals who will serve people with intellectual disabilities in their practices and clinics. This is accomplished by encouraging dental students, as well as practicing dentists, to conduct screenings at Special Smiles events. It is a wonderful way to break down the barriers that too often prevent dental care professionals from working with this population.
Special Smiles event is currently been carried out in Special Olympic Games in Nigeria. The initiative relies on volunteers to staff the events. Special Smiles event is currently operating in Nigeria under the supervision of Dr. (Mrs.) Folakemi Oredugba.