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Special mission at the summer games

Health Athletes, Health Smiles screening

Volunteers from the college and the Children's Medical Center of Dallas dental office provided screenings for
nearly 300
Special Olympics athletes during Memorial Day weekend. Pictured above with athletes are students
D3 Emily
Hamm, far left; D4 Chris Larrow, middle; and D4 Mandi Wilson, far right.

Photos courtesy Joy Parker

When TAMHSC-BCD volunteers convened at the Texas Special Olympics, they expected to screen athletes. What they didn’t anticipate were all the hugs and high-fives they got in return.

One of D4 Mandi Wilson’s standout patients during the Special Olympics’ Healthy Athletes screening event was quite a hugger.

“After we were done with our exam, and the patient was done showing me his new toothbrush and how clean his teeth were, he gave me a hug,” says Wilson. “A good hug, not just a side hug,” she adds. His grateful mother looked on, repeatedly thanking Wilson and the other volunteers.

Then there was a female patient who was very excited about her dental screening, which was one of the health care services offered to Texas Special Olympics athletes during the summer games May 25-26 at the University of Texas at Arlington. The patient was adamant about being screened on her own without her mom’s help.

“She willingly took tooth-brushing instructions and will likely be more compliant because she was able to have this experience ‘on her own,’” Wilson says.

2012 Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Screening
Wendy Vu, biomedical sciences graduate student (left), and Joy Parker,
’03, ’06, director for Healthy Athletes, Special Smiles (center)

Joy Parker ’03, ’06, a registered dental hygienist and director of ambulatory services at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, is also a director for Healthy Athletes, Special Smiles and organized the Memorial Day weekend screenings. Other health care providers, including ophthalmologists and podiatrists, were also on hand to fit patients with glasses and perform exams.

During the two days, approximately 15 volunteers, mostly from Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry and the Children’s Medical Center dental office, screened 279 athletes for caries and other oral health issues, and provided referrals to local dentists.

It’s all in an effort to help provide access to care for the athletes.

“There is an access issue to care for individuals with special needs,” says Parker. “A big part of this process is the oral health education. A lot of these athletes might be on multiple medications, and may have dry mouth and other issues associated with their condition.

“We’re able to talk about oral health care and really get them connected to a dentist.”

Plus, volunteers have fun in the process.

“The people there seemed to really enjoy spending time with the athletes,” says Parker, “and getting all the hugs and high-fives."

Interested in volunteering for Special Olympics dental screenings or in taking referral patients?
Contact JOY.PARKER@childrens.com.