The CDA Foundation Supports Smiles at Special Olympics!

Elisa Llodra Featured News

From the Winter 2023 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

The CDA Foundation (CDAF) was honored to grant funds to Special Olympics Colorado (SOCO) to support its oral health screenings and mouthguard clinics for athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Through this program, the foundation supported this community by improving access to dental care for individuals with IDD, providing oral health education through free and preventative health screenings, preventing injuries through a special mouthguard clinic to support high impact sports, and promoting training for dental professionals on how to work with individuals with IDD. The funding supported each of these initiatives and helped more than 150 athletes with IDD to participate in high impact sports programming in the fall 2022 season.

For over 50 years, SOCO has advocated and created lifelong opportunities for youth and adults with IDD. People with IDD are one of the largest and most medically underserved populations. Due to a range of systemic challenges, including inadequate provider training and inaccessible facilities, they have less access to quality healthcare and health promotion programs. As a result, people with IDD experience dramatically higher rates of preventable disease, chronic pain and suffering, and premature death. For example, on a team of 10 Special Olympics athletes, three will have untreated tooth decay and one will need an urgent referral to a dentist.

One of SOCO’s more popular fall season sports is flag football. This sport, along with basketball, are the only contact sports that are hosted by the organization. With any contact sport, there are inherent risks for injuries to athletes due to unintentional contact during play.

In an issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, it was reported that 13% to 39% of all dental injuries are sports related. To reduce the risk of harm during practices and competitions, SOCO has defined rules to protect athletes that include the use of mouthguards. According to a study on the effectiveness of mouthguards, one-third of sports injuries occur to the mouth and face. The ADA reports that “wearing a properly fitted mouthguard reduces the incidence and severity of oral injury in sporting and recreational activities, particularly activities with significant risk of dental trauma or orofacial injury.”

SOCO hosted two free preventative mouthguard clinics in the 2022 flag football season at regional flag football competitions in the Denver metro and northeast Colorado regions, reaching more than 150 athletes. These clinics also included education on how to properly store and clean mouthguards.

In addition to providing mouthguards, dental professionals provided oral health screenings, topical fluoride application, education, follow-up instructions and dental referrals as needed.

About the CDAF Grant Program

Twice per year, in the fall and spring, the CDAF accepts grant applications from non-profit organizations that serve their communities by providing dental care to those in need. The foundation evaluates these applications carefully and reviews the nature and scope of each project, as well as the organization’s financial health. It does a deep dive into what the organizations are asking for and how the funds will be used (which could be equipment, PPE, direct patient care, etc.). Each line item is reviewed in detail to determine grant eligibility so CDAF can ensure its donation addresses access to care and quality treatment.

CDAF is able to provide grants because of the generosity and support of the dental community and dental-related vendors. Thank you to the CDA members who donate to the foundation on their dues renewal statements, and to all sponsors and attendees of annual events like the CDAF Beer Garden in June and the CDAF Golf Tournament in September. Your contribution makes a difference in Colorado communities!