Your dentist Mark Vardon in Lycra

7th June 2016

Ever seen your dentist in Lycra?

Bow Lane’s Mark Vardon will be cycling across the Pyrenees in September in aid of a charity that helps those in developing countries out of dental pain. Here, he shares his passion for two wheels and the Bridge2Aid charity

How long have you been cycling?

I have always cycled. I took up formal road cycling almost three years ago after joining a club in Bath and was instantly hooked. I dislocated my shoulder and broke some ribs in a crash in my second year but was back in the saddle three weeks later.

You’re about to embark on 450 miles across northern Spain from Cap D’Agde to San Sebastian in just five days – no mean feat! Have you done this distance before? 

Yes, I have cycled across the Alps twice. Within a year of taking up road cycling, I cycled from Milan to Basel and then the next year from Venice to Stuttgart. The first was 664 km (413 miles) and about 8,945m climbing, the second 900 km and just over 12,200 meters climbing. Both rides included the iconic Passo Stelvio on the routes.

Do you cycle to work?

Yes, I cycle to work as often as I can and in all weather. As a specialist, I often have to take equipment with me that is either too big or heavy to carry on a bike. This is the only thing that stops me.

How much training are you doing?

I am doing an average of 240 km and 3,000m climbing a week. The longest single ride I have in training so far was 195 km – that was on Good Friday.

Is the charity an important one – and why?

Bridge2Aid is an excellent charity. It is among the charities that are able to make a huge intervention with small contributions and resources. Of the world’s population, 70% do not have access to dental care and we are fortunate in the UK, and in the era of modern medicine, that we no longer see the worst consequences of untreated dental disease.

Bridge2Aid’s contribution to this need is through a clinic in Mwanza in Northern Tanzania where they leave a lasting legacy by training local heath care providers to treat patients in pain with equipment and resources they have locally and can maintain over the long-term.

This is achieved primarily through their Dental Volunteer Programme, that offers every UK trained dentist, dental hygienist, dental therapist and dental nurse at some point in their career, the opportunity to spend two weeks training and transferring the necessary skills to treat dental pain to local health care providers.

As a result many people who have been suffering years of chronic pain return to being productive members of their society and are no longer at risk of more serious complications.

There seems to be many #dentistsinlycra – why do you think dentists have an affinity with the sport?

Yes, a lot of dentists cycle but probably no more than other professions. It is great exercise and a fabulous way to enjoy the countryside and match your calorie expenditure with intake. I am sure a lot of dentists like me eat a little more calories than they need.

What can patients do to help?

The most obvious would be by visiting the justgiving page – and making a donation. More importantly, becoming aware there are charities addressing the issue of dental pain and even talking about them. This would help greatly as dental pain might not grab the headlines as much as some other causes.

After finishing my Masters degree, I worked for a month as dental officer in the Falkland Islands. There had not been a dentist on the islands for a number of months and, from the first moment on clinic, I had a lot of desperate patients in pain. It should not take too much to imagine the difference access to dental services of the kind the Bridge2Aid project provide can make to peoples lives.

James led a team from Bow Lane that set up clinic Malawi in 2013 to assist the Dentaid charity addressing a similar need. I hope this will help follow on from this.

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