The AGD and the Special Olympics

I recently returned from the St. Regis Hotel and Resort at Monarch Beach in Southern California.

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by Joes Blaes, DDS, Editor

Most of my travel involves speaking. They are usually quick in-and-out trips, so my wife, Sue, does not travel with me. However, June was a special month! I attended the annual meeting of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) in San Diego, and I convinced Sue to go with me. We had a great time attending a very special meeting, and even found the time to relax by the pool and get some sun.

Every general dentist should belong to the AGD. This is our specialty organization which represents our best interests. I have been a member of the AGD for years, and have seen the many positive changes that this group of dedicated dentists has made during that time. The past two years have been highlighted by many positive changes within the AGD, making it even more evident that this is the organization for general dentists. Visit the AGD’s great new Web site at www.agd.org for more information.

A high point of every annual AGD meeting is the convocation. This is a colorful ceremony where dentists receive their hard-earned fellowship and master’s degrees. This year was even more special because the convocation was held on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Midway. This was a great venue for the celebration of these dentists’ achievements! The celebration continued with dinner and dancing on the carrier flight deck amid the retired and modern jet fighter aircraft which are on permanent display.

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Thirteen years ago, Special Olympics International recognized the acute problem of the lack of access to dental care for both children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The organization initiated the Special Olympics Special Smiles® (SOSS) program to address the dental and overall health problems facing this population. In fact, this was found to be the No. 1 health-care problem for families and caregivers of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

A highlight of the AGD's evening festivities was a talk given by Dustin Plunkett, a Global Messenger for the Special Olympics (SO). Dustin is intellectually handicapped, and he told a special story about his involvement in the SO and the SOSS.

While attending the SO Summer Games four years ago, he was examined by a dentist in the Healthy Athlete Village. This dentist told Dustin’s coach that Dustin urgently needed to see a dentist in his home area because his teeth were in such poor condition. When Dustin returned home, his coach took him to see Dr. Don C. Atkins, who did a complete exam and discovered a suspicious lesion. This lesion was diagnosed as cancerous. The cancer was treated successfully with surgery, and since then, Dustin has been cancer-free. He is now able to show off his million-dollar smile every time he gives a speech for the SO. Dustin credits Dr. Atkins with saving his life, and he is convinced that it is important for him to share this message with everyone who will listen. Oral cancer kills, but it can be cured with early detection and treatment. When Dustin was finished speaking, he received a standing ovation and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.

One of the problems with providing exams and services for the intellectually handicapped is identifying dentists who are willing to treat these special people. This is an opportunity to change the quality of life for millions of children and adults. In 2006, the AGD and the AGD Foundation partnered with SO to help identify providers for primary dental care for SO athletes. General dentists willing to provide health-care services for persons with intellectual disabilities can identify themselves through the SO Provider Directory.

This is not free dentistry. The SO athletes - or their caregivers or parents - will be able to access this directory and contact individual dental offices just like any other patient. Dentists will then decide - just as they do with all their patients - whether or not to accept these athletes as new patients.

AGD needs your help to make this happen! For more information and to sign up for the online provider directory, visit the AGD Foundation’s Web site at www.agd.org/foundation. 0708de006

Joe Blaes, DDS, Editor - e-mail: joeb@pennwell.com
Toll-free phone number: (866) 274-4500

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