abc15: Valley Special Olympics athletes have plenty to smile about at dentist



A group of Special Olympics athletes have plenty to smile about after a trip to the dentist's office.

One of the athletes used to spend most of her life holding back her smile.

“With that, I would not smile. At all,” said Amber Nielsen pointing at how her teeth used to look.

Years of grinding her teeth at night in an over-the-counter mouthguard left her with a smile she had a complicated relationship with.

As a Special Olympics athlete for over 30 years, she says confidence is key. A good smile can help that. The comradery is the main reason she’s been with Special Olympics for such a long time.

She said there are “people who treat you like a person even though you have a disability.”

She was one of the athletes who received free dental care from Dr. John Badolato of Studio B Smiles in partnership with Devin Booker’s Starting Five organization.

On top of being a dentist for some of the Suns and Diamondbacks players, Dr. Badolato has worked on the teeth of some of the most famous faces in sports and pop culture like Steph Curry, Wayne Gretzky and even Rapper Lil’ Wayne.

After dropping nearly 30 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night, all-star Devin Booker dropped off a video for the Special Olympic athletes who all set up their own dentist appointment, a part of an independence exercise.

In the video, Booker says dental hygiene is a good practice, then says “speaking of practice...” as he invites the athletes to shoot around at their facility.

More than $100,000 in dental care was given to the athletes for free.

But you can’t put a price on the life-changing moment for Nielsen, when she saw her new smile for the first time.

Upon looking in the mirror, she was moved to tears.

”It’s something you can’t put a price on, but we are so happy to pay it forward to the special athletes in Arizona,” said Dr. Badolato.

Nielsen says her cheeks are sore recently — from smiling so much.

“I’m smiling more, I’m doing a lot more interviews,” she said.

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