The New Zealand Dental Services
THE general organisation of the Dental Corps, the provision and training of staff, the purchase and distribution of supplies and the standard of dental health to be achieved have been described. Consideration must now be given to the main function of the Corps, its raison d'être, treatment. Practically every man of military age in New Zealand either had some degree of dental disease or was a potential casualty as a wearer of artificial dentures. The perfect natural dentition was so rare as to be an object for demonstration to other dentists. It is safe to state that the number of men possessing their own teeth who did not require some treatment from the NZDC during their term of service was negligible, and very few of those wearing artificial dentures completed the course without trouble of some sort. As the DDS wrote in his ‘Instructions to Dental Officers’ regarding the duties of the Corps:
This is to promote the highest order of dental fitness attainable for the fighting forces and to ensure that they are maintained in such a state. The quality of the fighting soldier depends on the basic factor of his degree of physical fitness in which the state of his oral cavity plays no small part. Experience in the last war and in this has proved that after troops have been engaged in battle, quite a considerable amount of dental treatment is required, particularly in replacing lost and broken dentures. This constitutes a vital problem with New Zealand troops, 50% to 60% of whom are denture wearers.
The New Zealand Dental Corps was not so much concerned with patching up the battle casualties as with reducing the number of those casualties by ‘promoting the highest order of dental fitness’ and ‘maintaining such a state’. This could not be achieved haphazardly and demanded a definite plan of campaign. Every man had to be dentally examined as soon as possible after his entry into the forces, firstly to assess the amount of treatment required, and secondly to provide a permanent record of his dental condition at that time.