Dentists lend skills to Special Olympics

Sanford Fenton, D.D.S., the chair of pediatric dentistry at the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston, played a vital role at this year's Special Olympics World Winter Games held February 7-13 in Idaho.

As a global clinical adviser for Special Olympics, Dr. Fenton provided free dental screenings of the athletes. He also trained 35 pediatric and general dentists who will become local clinical directors around the world.

"They left with knowledge on how to treat patients with developmental and intellectual disabilities," Dr. Fenton said in a press release. "I, along with the trainees, performed oral screenings for the athletes. We also talked to them about oral hygiene and good nutrition. During the examination, the athletes were also fitted for mouth guards for the games."

If an athlete needed further dental care, 270 volunteers were standing by to provide dental treatment in a mobile dental van, local dental offices, or, if necessary, transportation to an emergency center.

Of the athletes at the games, typically 45% have untreated decay and up to 60% have excessive periodontal disease, while 13% to 15% of the athletes report mouth pain, Dr. Fenton said.

Trainees learned how to initiate, coordinate, and implement Special Olympics Special Smiles Programs in their local communities. They also learned hands-on how to manage the behaviors of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Steven Hackmyer, D.D.S., an associate professor of pediatric dentistry at the University of Texas Dental Branch, was a trainee this year. "The experience of being trained, as well as being part of the games, was truly phenomenal. It was the experience of a lifetime and one I will always remember," Dr. Hackmyer said in the press release. "Meeting, examining and teaching oral care to the athletes, most of whom did not speak English, was quite enjoyable and wonderful. It was rewarding to see the impact and difference we had on so many of the athletes."

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