A Picture of Health: BC Dentists Help Olympic and Paralympic Athletes’ Smiles

As excitement builds toward the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, athletes are preparing for the final stretch before they take to the world’s stage in a display of excellence in their respective sports.

Similarly, approximately 72 dentists and dental assistants are preparing, not for speed skating, ice hockey or even luge, but for their roles as volunteers at the Games.

“It’s my understanding the dental clinic will be the second busiest health-related service at the Olympic Games,” explained Dr. Chris Zed, associate dean, strategic and external affairs and head, postgraduate and hospital programs of the faculty of dentistry at The University of British Columbia (UBC).  “It’s a combination of the nature of high impact winter sports and the varying degree of importance countries place on oral health worldwide.”

If athletes choose to visit one of the two dental clinics set up specifically for the 2010 Winter Games, the program Zed and his fellow dental manager, Dr. Mark Parhar, designed will educate athletes on how certain behaviours, such as diet, tobacco use, sun exposure and good teeth maintenance with flossing and brushing, affect their overall health.

“These athletes follow winter around the world to train year-round and, due to extreme altitudes and long lengths of UV exposure, winter athletes are at high risk of lip and mouth cancer,” said Zed.  “One of our main priorities will be to help them protect themselves long after the Games end by giving them the tools to succeed, in this case, education and lip balm.”

With over 800 dental encounters recorded at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Italy, the team expects to be busy at polyclinics.   Located in the Olympic and Paralympic Villages in Whistler and Vancouver, the polyclinics are central locations for all types of medical care including dentistry. Here the volunteer dental staff will perform various levels of care from teeth cleaning to full restorations.

“In some acute cases, athletes will be assessed at the venue where the accident happens,” said Zed.  “Also, due to the nature of men’s ice hockey, the ice hockey arena will have dentistry coverage on-site.”

For some people, the dramatic change in their environment will bring on unexpected issues such as a cold, earache or sore throat.  Others find tooth sensitivity, decay or even require a root canal.

“We recognize it’s an inconvenient time to run into health problems,” said Zed. “As such, our volunteers will run two eight-hour shifts at the clinics daily but also be on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

The volunteer team is made up of UBC dentistry alumni and interested dentists throughout Vancouver and the lower mainland.  Each must be licenced, practicing dentists, assistants or hygienists.  

“Just as the athletes are at the top of their game, our dental volunteers are screened to ensure each lives up to this strict standard, and expectation, of excellence,” said Zed.  “Canada’s oral healthcare programming is something that I believe should be admired internationally, and this is one way to demonstrate our abilities to the world.”

This standard of excellence is upheld in the products the volunteers use as well.  Working with Sinclair Dental, a major distributor and friend of the 2010 Winter Games, the program gained access to 3M, the Official Supplier of Large Format Graphics for the 2010 Winter Games.

“Knowing 3M’s commitment to Vancouver 2010 as an Official Supplier and because I am familiar with its dental products from my own practice, I described the volunteer program to my contact there who decided to donate materials and loan us equipment,” said Zed.

3M ESPE will exclusively provide all products possible such as composites, adhesives and impression materials.
“Although, to my knowledge, this is the first time 3M ESPE has been involved in a donation of this size, education is at 3M’s core and opportunities like this complement our existing dental education seminars,” said Lisa Citton-Battel, business manager, 3M ESPE.  “Working with Dr. Zed, Dr. Parhar and their team have been wonderful and this program fits perfectly with the work 3M already does with Canadian communities.”

As the dentistry supervisors, Zed and Parhar will be available every day for troubleshooting between the two polyclinics and jumping in to help when needed.  
To ensure everyone is prepared to handle various situations during the Games, all dental volunteers will attend training sessions to highlight everything from venue location and parking to polyclinic medical services and product use.  

“Our goal is to help athletes excel both during and after the Winter Games,” said Zed. “If they return to their countries with a greater appreciation for their oral health, and higher expectations of dental service in general, then we did our job.”

Jacqui Newell
Public Relations Coordinator
3M Canada
519-451-2500 ext. 2564