Online Program

Oral health needs among special olympics athletes

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 10:50 a.m. - 11:10 a.m.

Amy H. Shellard, MPH, Research and Evaluation, Special Olympics International, Washington, DC
Darcie L. Mersereau, MPH, Healthy Athletes Program, Special Olympics International, Washington, DC
Stephen B. Corbin, DDS, MPH, Constituent Services and Support, Special Olympics International, Washington, DC
Rachel Moscato, Research and Evaluation, Special Olympics International, Washington, DC
Background: People with intellectual disabilities (ID) experience poor health and specialized health needs. Special Olympics (SO) implemented Healthy Athletes (HA) to provide SO athletes with health screenings, education, and referrals for follow-up care. Since 1997, HA has conducted 1.2 million screenings, and screening results are aggregated into the world's largest database on the health of people with ID. Methods: HA occurs around the world at local, regional, and national events, and spans seven disciplines: health promotion, podiatry, fitness, audiology, vision, oral health, and sports physicals. The oral health discipline screens for oral health conditions, offers education (including brushing and flossing instructions), and provides preventative supplies. To examine the prevalence of oral health needs among SO athletes and regional differences, 76,900 screenings from 152 countries were analyzed. Results: Among SO athletes screened, 13.9% reported mouth pain, 37.3% had untreated tooth decay, 28.8% were missing teeth, and 47.0% had signs of gingivitis. Athletes from Middle East/North Africa had the highest rates of tooth decay (65.2%), followed by Latin America (60.0%). Mouth pain was highest in Latin America (24.9%), followed by Africa (20.9%). Mouth pain was self-reported, so the rates of mouth pain may be even higher. Discussion: Local partnerships are needed to ensure SO athletes get the care they need after receiving dental referrals. Health problems specific to people with ID exist for several reasons, including lack of education, lack of training for health care professionals, and communication challenges. In addition to partnerships for treatment, these root problems need to be addressed.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes screening program; Assess the prevalence of oral health needs among Special Olympics athletes; Discuss the challenges associated with improving oral health needs for people with intellectual disabilities

Keyword(s): Disability, Oral Health Needs

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Senior Manager of Research and Evaluation for Special Olympics and am responsible for managing the Healthy Athletes data. My MPH in epidemiology, experiences working at Special Olympics, and knowledge of the health of people with intellectual disabilities make me qualified to analyze these data and present on the results.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.