Ronnie Bledsoe, a volleyball player from Oklahoma, was glad to finally see a dentist last summer when he travelled to the USA National Games in Lincoln, Nebraska. He had been living with pain in his mouth for years. Thanks to the dedicated volunteer dentists at the Healthy Athletes venue at the Games, he received 14 fillings, a complete cleaning, and a mouthguard. But now, several months later, he is still in pain.
Ronnie needs to have multiple teeth removed – teeth that were too badly decayed to be treated in Lincoln. Unfortunately, like many Special Olympics athletes, Ronnie does not have health insurance, so the additional dental work he desperately needs will have to wait.
Special Smiles is one of seven health disciplines that make up the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program. The program provides free health screenings to athletes and even follow-up care at select events like the Games in Nebraska.
Ronnie’s case illustrates that at events where Special Smiles is able provide care in addition to screenings, volunteer dentists sometimes have to make difficult choices about what procedures will have the most impact and which can be done with the available time and resources.
Ronnie and his wife Dixie (also a Special Olympics volleyball player) are optimistic about finally being able to resolve his dental problems, once they have the money to pay out-of-pocket. They plan to use their income tax refund to finance a trip to the dentist.
For now, though, Ronnie waits.