By Dave Flanagan
If you’re having difficulty getting an appointment to have your teeth fixed in Canada right now, it could be because there’s a whole load of the country’s dentists sitting in a campsite in the Atacama Desert.
Well, it’s only three, but that’s still quite a lot of dentists for one event. And they’re all Canadians too. There are four here in total, an unusually high number in itself.
Atacama Crossing 2009 race leader, Mehmet Danis, is a dentist with the Canadian forces, while his friend Ash Mokhtari works as one in Thunder Bay. Stan Lee’s another, based in Victoria.
At the end of the long Stage 5 yesterday, they were all trying to figure out why desert endurance racing should be such an attractive proposition for dentists. It wasn’t for me to suggest anything related to the p-word. I didn’t have to.
“We inflict a lot of pain, so I guess we have to experience what pain’s like,” said Stan, with his tongue firmly in his cheek as usual. At least I hope it was.
“There’s a direct correlation between the pain in your tooth and the pain in foot,” adds Ash, who’s clearly thought a lot about this. “You get all kinds of blisters and abscesses in your mouth and on your feet, so I think that has something to do with it.
“I have a questionnaire for new patients,” he continues. “I ask them if they’ve done ultramarathons, if they’ve had blisters on their feet, things like that. If the answer’s yes, they get a 50 per cent discount and I’ll pull any of their teeth for free.”
Mehmet – now possibly the world’s fastest dentist “on sand” - went to dental school with Ash. They graduated the same year and have remained close friends since.
“The Gobi March 2008 was my personal adventure, my first sign up, said Mehmet. “I thought Ash would be really interested in it so I just called him up one night and without even seeing the website he said; ‘I’ll do it. I didn’t take him seriously. A week later I called and he’d already signed up.
“Now he’s actually signed up for Namibia as well. I can’t keep up the pace with him, so I’m going to wait a while, maybe do some more local events and recuperate a bit, but he’s set for Namibia.”
“I think I just clicked the wrong button on my computer,” interjects Ash.
One thing’s for sure, if any member of this dental trio turns up for an event you’re at, laughs are guaranteed. Just don’t go see any of them if your teeth are hurting as they’ll be more interested in their feet.