Expedition Dentistry – is it on your radar?

The Molar Explorer, Cat Burford’s love of adventure spans both her personal and professional life. While she prepares to undertake a solo unsupported expedition of the South Pole, Cat also works as a practising dentist at the River Practice Specialist Centre in Truro and as a freelance teacher of expedition dentistry for World Extreme Medicine.

A little more about expedition dentistry

Many may be unaware of what expedition dentistry entails – there’s just a couple of people in the UK who teach it. Cat explains: “World Extreme Medicine trains medics that go on expeditions: their training includes a module on dentistry, which teaches them what to do if someone in their team has a broken tooth or a raging toothache, while they’re in the middle of nowhere.”

The training is vital, as oral health issues are remarkably common for those on expeditions and many medics admit to having very limited dental knowledge. Cat recalls one experience: “WEM (World Extreme Medicine) worked with the team supporting Mark Beaumont, the cyclist who was attempting to ride around the world in 80 days. When Mark was cycling in Russia, he hit a pothole, went over his bike and smashed a tooth. We organised for someone in Russia, a contact of a contact, to get dental materials to the team and talked them through how to fix the tooth. He had the temporary tooth in place for the whole of the 80 days!”

How did it all begin?

While Cat is no stranger to more extreme forms of dentistry – she has volunteered around the world from Zimbabwe to Bolivia, Nepal and Kenya – she’d put her more adventurous side on the backburner for a few years, before coming across expedition dentistry by chance. While reconsidering the direction of her career and setting up a LinkedIn profile, Cat was contacted by Mark Hannaford, founder of World Extreme Medicine: “Mark had seen pictures of my dentistry, and said they were looking for somebody who had experience of humanitarian work and dentistry outside of the norm to come and teach expedition dentistry.”

Cat shadowed a teacher during a week in Wales and created her own, practical-based courses, which she now teaches for medics heading on expeditions. “It felt like this was what was meant to be,” she explains.

Now, as she prepares for her own expedition – which will see her become one of only a handful of female adventurers to have completed a solo trek across the South Pole – Cat will be supporting two causes close to her heart from her years of volunteering: Bridge2Aid and Community Action Nepal.

If you’d like to sponsor Cat, The Molar Explorer, or learn more about her expedition, click here.

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