What is Special Smiles?

The Special Smiles discipline of Healthy Athletes provides comprehensive oral health care information, including offering free dental screenings and instructions on correct brushing and flossing techniques to participating Special Olympics athletes.

Purpose and goals

Special Smiles is an event designed to:

  1. Increase access to dental care for Special Olympics athletes and all people with intellectual disabilities.
  2. Raise dental professionals’ awareness of the oral health concerns of people with special needs, including difficulties involved in accessing care.
  3. Develop a body of knowledge about the oral health care needs of children and adults with disabilities.
  4. Provide a list of regional dental professionals who care for people with special needs to all athletes who participate in Special Smiles.

Importance and impact

Special Smiles examinations have found that a large percentage of Special Olympics athletes in the U.S. are unaware of the condition of their oral health.

47% have gingival signs

25% have untreated tooth decay

9% received an urgent dental referral

12% have mouth pain

Clinical Directors

Clinical Directors are an important part of the Healthy Athletes Special Smiles team. Clinical Directors are responsible for working with their local Special Olympics program and other volunteer health professionals in coordinating a Special Smiles event in their region.

View Clinical Director Manual

Jeff Prendergast
Health Programs Coordinator
[email protected]