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News / October 4, 2010

An Olympic effort for Special Smiles

by Guy Hiscott

Summer-time saw the athletes of Special Olympics Ireland descend on Limerick for the National Games and the Healthy Athlete Programme, including Special Smiles (dentistry).

On offer was Special Smiles, Opening Eyes (optometry), Fit Feet (podiatry) and Health Promotion, with each discipline staffed by numerous volunteers – both clinical and general.

The most popular discipline was Special Smiles, which offered dental health screening and education. Over two-and-a-half days volunteer dentists, dental nurses and dental hygienists worked tirelessly to screen over 650 athletes. 

Special Smiles

Special Smiles volunteer Grace Kelly showing one of the athletes good toothbrushing methods

Since the inception of Special Olympics Special Smiles, one of the primary goals of the programme has been to collect standardised data on the oral health of Special Olympics athletes.

The data gathered is a useful indicator of the oral health status of people with intellectual disabilities (ID) in Ireland.

Some of the most notable results from this year’s Special Smiles included:
• 24.5% of athletes presented with untreated tooth decay
• 86.5% brushed their teeth every day
• 7.4% of athletes required urgent medical treatment.

Triona Mc Alister, clinical director for Special Smiles, felt that overall the athletes had received an impressive amount of dental care; however, poor oral hygiene still remains a problem.

Triona was thrilled with the hard work and dedication of the Special Smiles volunteers, who worked over and above the call of duty to ensure a hugely successful programme.

Over 1,800 athletes travelled from the all around Ireland to participate in 13 sports and the Motor Activities Training Programme for four days of activities, fun and camaraderie.