Students and faculty ensure Special Smiles for athletes at the 2022 Special Olympics Texas Summer Games
June 13, 2022
This May, students, faculty and volunteers participated in a two-day Special Olympics Special Smiles event, part of the 2022 Special Olympics Texas Summer Games held in and around Morgan’s Wonderland theme park and the first hosted since the onset of the pandemic.
Claudia I. Contreras, DDS
, assistant clinical professor and pre-doctoral director of pediatric dentistry, aided by Noorpreet Kaur, BDS, MPH
, assistant professor, developed a partnership between Special Olympics Texas and UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry to organize Special Smiles, an effort aimed to provide oral health screenings, information and instruction to Special Olympics athletes as well as consult with health professionals and students in treating their patients.
In preparation for the event, Dr. Contreras gave a virtual orientation and professional education lecture to familiarize all volunteer participants ahead of the event.
Volunteers provided free dental screenings to 129 athletes at Morgan’s Wonderland on day one and to 70 athletes on day two at Teletón USA Children’s Rehabilitation Center. Fluoride treatments, protective mouth guards, prevention supplies, and oral health care education were also available to all Special Olympics athletes.
Dental hygiene program director Carol A. Nguyen, MS, RDH
, and clinical associate professor Beatriz M. Hicks, MA, RDH
, led the dental hygiene volunteer team. Student leaders from the American Academy of Developmental Medicine & Dentistry, UT Health San Antonio Student Chapter, were also actively involved.
In addition to our School of Dentistry participants, the UTSA pre-dental society, UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry and Concorde Career College’s dental hygiene faculty and students were present to lend their knowledge and skills. International dentists from China, England and India also volunteered as well as local private practitioners and digital therapeutics innovator, Smileyscope.
Special Smiles is one of eight disciplines participating in Healthy Athletes. The Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® program offers free health screenings and education to Special Olympics athletes in a welcoming, fun environment as well as providing training to health professionals and students to treat people with intellectual disabilities.
Our School of Dentistry’s faculty and students are committed to making a difference in improving oral health through community outreach programs.