USC volunteers deliver free dental care to Special Olympic athletes

August 5, 2015

More than 100 Ostrow faculty and students provided free comprehensive dental care last week to athletes with intellectual disabilities as part of the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Program. It was the first time such comprehensive care - including extractions, restorations and root canals - had been offered to the athletes with intellectual disabilities, who often have poorer oral health than their typically developing peers, research shows

 

Ostrow wraps up memorable week at Special Olympics World Games.

More than 100 Ostrow faculty and students provided free comprehensive dental care last week to athletes with intellectual disabilities as part of the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Program.

It was the first time such comprehensive care - including extractions, restorations and root canals - had been offered to the athletes with intellectual disabilities, who often have poorer oral health than their typically developing peers, research shows.

During the seven days of treatment, 360 athletes were treated, with more than 300 restorations, nearly 150 extractions and 20 root canals being provided.

“It was such an incredible honor to be able to treat these athletes,” said Santosh Sundaresan DDS ’05, section chair for community oral health programs. “Seeing the smiles on their faces as they left pain-free validated for me why I do this.”

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Sundaresan led the Ostrow effort at the Special Olympics but said the credit really belonged to faculty, staff and residents who were so helpful. He singled out Ostrow’s endodontics department for its work in providing root canals to the athletes - a procedure not typically provided at mobile clinics because of the time and expertise required.

In addition to complex treatments, dental hygiene students provided cleanings to more than 200 athletes and oral health care education to nearly 600 athletes throughout the event.

“A lot of these athletes don’t smile at first,” said Davis Do DDS ’17 who administered X-rays to athletes before their treatment. “But after a good  cleaning or filling, they walk away from here with a huge smile heading into their competition.”

Related reading: UCLA School of Dentistry gets $5 million from NIH to train future leaders in oral health research

T-Shian Gibson, a 14-year-old volleyball player from Trinidad and Tobago, was one of the athletes waiting outside the dental van for a dental procedure.

She said she had started experiencing pain in an upper back tooth but hadn’t been able to see a dentist back home because it was too expensive.

“If I can go back without pain, that would be great,” she said.

Boitmuleo Setshe, a 19-year-old volleyball player from Botswana, was all smiles after leaving the dental van.

Setshe, who had had a dental restoration done and was returning the next day for more work, said he was really happy to be able to return to Bostwana with a healthier smile.

“It’s really rewarding helping these athletes because I know they are going to leave in a better situation than how they came,” said Julie Jenks, assistant professor of clinical dentistry, who volunteered during the event and oversaw Setshe’s procedure.

“These patients are going to go back to their home countries remembering USC’s dental school helping them out,” she said. “I think that shows a lot of good will throughout the world, and I think people remember that.”

The Special Olympics World Games took place from July 25 through Aug. 2. Nearly 7,000 athletes from 177 countries attended the events, which took place at both USC and UCLA.

“This was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Hoang-Anh Tran, DDS ’17. “It’s just great to get out and see what else we can do as dentists to help the community.”