Students, Staff, Faculty, and Residents Provide Dental Screenings for Special Olympics Athletes

Around 3,500 athletes and coaches gathered on Ohio State's campus for the Special Olympics Summer Games held June 28-29. The event included track and field, bocce, bowling, gymnastics, powerlifting, soccer, tennis, and volleyball competitions.

For Beth Chartier, Assistant Professor-Clinical in the Division of Dental Hygiene, the oral health of the Special Olympics athletes is a concern that she works hard to address. With more than 60 volunteers recruited from the college's students, staff, faculty, and residents, Ms. Chartier's team provided 352 dental screenings for the athletes whose dental needs are often unmet. "Special Olympics athletes around the U.S. currently present with a number of oral health issues," she said. "About 47% have moderate to severe gingival inflammation; 25% have untreated tooth decay; 9% need an urgent dental referral; and 12% have mouth pain. This screening event helps to raise awareness of the oral health concerns of people with special needs."

But creating awareness isn't the only goal for Ms. Chartier and the volunteers who joined her. Working together, the team provided oral cancer screenings, fluoride varnish applications, and oral hygiene instruction for the athletes. "None of this would have been possible without the volunteers," Ms. Chartier said. "We had students, staff, faculty, and three dentists from the local community who helped make it all happen. And there were residents from the college's General Practice Residency (GPR) Program whose contributions were vital." 

Speaking on behalf of the GPR residents, Dr. Mark Wenzel, the Program Director said, "We have a total of 10 new residents, and this is a great activity to start off their year here at Ohio State. They are energetic, friendly, and they have represented the college well."

Dr. Wenzel with GPR residents at the Summer Games
Dr. Wenzel (far left) with GPR residents at the Summer Games


Emphasizing the importance of the dental screening event, Ms. Chartier added, "Working through Healthy Athletes Special Smiles, an organization that serves special needs populations, we're drawing attention to the barriers that prevent access to dental care -- and we're working to make a difference in the oral health of people with special needs. We're glad to be part of this important work!"