Perhaps, one of the more neglected and ignored part of the body, the tooth could easily end up last in a runner’s priority list where a well-toned musculature, a robust heart and formidable legs take center stage. But the little devil once left untreated and rotting can easily make its presence felt during the most unexpected moment, especially during those crucial periods in a race when one’s resistance and strength are already compromised and waning.
Imagine one appropriately trained, properly nourished and well prepared participant in a trail race that took a year to manage, finance, and map out suddenly experiencing one of life’s most excruciatingly painful episodes – the toothache. And bam! All those months of blood, sweat, mud and tears suddenly vaporizing into thin air due to one missed dental appointment. But Mr. Badass soldiers on, having survived a plethora of generalized pain, cramping, fatigue, and sleeplessness in all its degree and variety. But the most dramatic discomfort coming from a sore molar easily beats ‘em all in a kaleidoscope of physical agony.
While many of these trials and tribulations most runners had the chance to experience, embrace and adapt to during training days and lesser races, this rare yet unbearable episode was something unfamiliar and seemed impossible to remedy immediately. At the third aid station, Mr. not-so-bad Ass gulps a strong analgesic to ease the discomfort but an hour later, the gremlin is back with a throbbing vengeance.
Alpha male finds various ways to mask the awful experience as he nears the last aid station. He puts pressure on the cheek area, places some ice to numb them and even pinches it once in a while. Marshalls at the last aid station are baffled to encounter one bruised runner with half of his face swollen. The expression on his face was a mixture of relief, nervousness, and frustration.
Relief from the next pain reliever is finally coming down as two emotions surface: nervousness since time is ticking away and this thorn by his side has dramatically slowed him down, and frustration for delaying his dental appointment for weeks. An hour after leaving the last aid station, the rest of his niggling discomfort in the muscles, the mind and the joints conspire with the odontalgic main man. Together they collaborate to make Mr. Poor Ass one broken, pained, and wandering zombie runner.
He still makes it within the cutoff time but so do the rest of the participants who were mostly high spirited and vibrant at the finish line. Meanwhile, our Mr. Thrashed runner is looking lost and out of synch. In one of nature’s cruelest joke, once he completed the final kilometer of the race, all of his suffering disappears like it never happened at all.
And so he survives this one but now he has learned his lesson. Or so we thought. He still foregoes his dental appointment but instead arms himself with sheets of narcotic analgesics. It works like magic, of course. Now all the savings he made foregoing his dental visits can go to registration fees for more races to come. After all, once all his teeth start to rot and thaw, new dentures await. So from Mr. Badass he has completed his transformation to Mr. Toothless. And yes, he bites more than he can chew.
Your nigging tooth, if left untreated can result to more than sleepless, lancinating nights. Let’s look at the other possible complications: dental abcess, difficulty in breathing (once infection crosses the midline), difficulty in mouth opening (trismus), facial swelling (cellulitis), bone loss, teeth loss, including medical problems such as heart disease and diabetes.
Jose Lorenzo Mina Jr has been practicing dentistry for the last 27 years and has been witness to the Filipino patient’s evolving attitude and knowledge in dentistry. While many patients are now armed with various knowledge (some bogus and highly questionable c/o of Mr. Goggle) in dentistry and dental care, a considerable number of patients still want to hold on more to their fancy cellphones and flashy gadgets than their good ole chompers.
Special thanks to Glairold Recella for Van’s picture after ascending Mt. Ayaas last May 27, 2018 during the Outrun your Dreams trail race.