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Let the games begin

Special Smiles volunteers teach athletes the importance of good oral health

June 04, 2012

By Karen Fox, ADA News staff

During the Special Olympics games in Chicago in May, 24 volunteer dentists pitched in to screen athletes and provide oral health instruction for this underserved patient population.

Special care: Dr. Fred Margolis, the 2012 co-chair of Special Olympics Special Smiles, shares a smile with Bobby, a young Special Olympics athlete, May 9 in Chicago. Some 500 athletes received oral screenings and oral health education delivered by volunteers from Chicago Dental Society, the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry and others. Photos by Paul Dohearty

Dentists, hygienists, assistants and their staff members—and ADA staff volunteers—were on hand for Special Olympics Special Smiles May 9. In a clinic set up alongside Chicago’s Eckersall Stadium, about 500 athletes received oral health screenings and instruction.

“I am very proud to have been affiliated with this program in Chicago for the past 18 years,” said Dr. Fred S. Margolis, program co-chair for 2012 along with Dr. Ricardo Mendoza.

Special Olympics Special Smiles is part of Healthy Athletes, which became an official Special Olympics program in 1997. Healthy Athletes offers screenings at Special Olympics events worldwide in seven areas: dental, podiatry, physical therapy, better health and well-being, audiology, sports physical exams and vision screenings. The program relies on local volunteers like dentists to provide health services and information to special needs patients.

Dentist volunteers came from the Chicago Dental Society, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Loyola University’s Medical Center, the Illinois Masonic Hospital, the Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity and the Grottoes of North America Humanitarian Foundation, which also donated supplies for the Chicago event.

For more information on Special Olympics Healthy Athletes, visit

Proud athlete: Eleven-year-old Larry Young shows off his participation form.

Better brushing: Special Smiles volunteers show proper brushing techniques to a young athlete.

Buddies: Program co-chair Dr. Fred Margolis (left) poses with volunteer dentists (from left) Drs. Kate Limardi, Brenden Gray and Amy Feller before the screening begins.