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The New Zealand Dental Services

The Surgery

The Surgery

The centrepiece of the surgery was the chair. While in some cases hydraulic pump chairs were provided, most of them were of the folding type made of wood with adjustable headpiece and back. They were reasonably adequate, though lacking in strength and range of movement in comparison with the pump chairs. On the left of the chair was a unit complete with spittoon, saliva ejector, bracket, electric engine and compressed air atomiser. They were made in New Zealand and proved to be very satisfactory. On the right of the chair was a cabinet for instruments and drugs, with its top designed for use as a writing desk.

The chair, unit and cabinet required a width of 7 ft 6 in. to 8 ft and at least 12 ft from the window to the back wall. When a series of chairs were placed alongside each other as in the larger hospitals, page break page break page break page break page break page break page break page break page 99 8 ft from the centre of one chair to the centre of the next was allotted.

black and white photograph of group of soldiers

Makeshift workshop in old storehouse, Nagaruawahia

black and white photograph of military dental clinic

Camp Dental Hospital surgery, Trentham, 1943

black and white photograph of army field dentist

At work in a carvan trailer, Trentham

black and white photograph of mobile dental clinic

New Zealand Dental Corps carvan trailer

black and white photograph of army dental clinic

Srurgery at RNZAF Station, Delta

black and white photograph of dental instruments

Dental haversack and contents

black and white photograph of dental instruments

Surgical pannier and contents

black and white photograph of dental instruments

Prosthetic pannier and contents

black and white photograph of soldiers queue for dentist

1 New Zealand Camp Dental Hospita, Maadi. Patients clean their teeth at the Oral Hygiene Bench before entering the surgery

black and white photograph of dental clinic in tent

A field dental section operating in a Base area

black and white photograph of army officer

Lieutenant-Colonel J. F. Fuller, OBE, ADDS 2 NZEF

black and white photograph of field dental hospital

2 New Zealand Camp Dental Hospital, Maadi, before its building was completed

black and white photograph of soldiers awaiting treatment

In the Western Desert, 1940. Patients wait outside the surgery of a field ambulance dental officer

black and white photograph of officers taking breakfast

Officers of a New Zealand mobile dental section have breakfast in the field

There is an age-old controversy among dentists about the most suitable daylight for operating. In the southern hemisphere the majority, as revealed by a poll taken among the dental officers, favoured the southern light, some almost to the point of fanaticism, while the minority with equal vehemence swore by the northern. As there were some hospitals in long narrow army huts where the chairs were placed back to back, it is hoped that officers of appropriate schools of thought were employed. There was one point, however, of universal agreement, that direct sunlight must be avoided at all costs because of eye strain from glare. This made the eastern and western aspects unsuitable. Some form of artificial light was necessary for dull days and evening work, but this was discouraged whenever adequate daylight was available. All the hospitals were equipped with a rise and fall light fitted with a suitable reflector above each chair. In addition, a battery operated light which could be worn on the forehead was a standard issue to each section.

It is reasonable to presume that, with the development of the fluorescent tube, this will be the lighting of the future, but its first trial in Waiouru Camp was a failure owing to technical faults in the light itself. A better type was installed in HMNZS Cook in 1945 with more success.

Every surgery was provided with hot and cold water. It was found necessary to filter the cold water to prevent blocking the saliva ejector system, and for this purpose a strainer was fitted outside the hospital. Some hospitals had their own electric hot-water system, some were connected with the camp supply, some used the ‘Zip’ type heater and one, at least, had a coke boiler. A steriliser bench, a plaster bench covered with battleship linoleum and a wash-hand basin completed the furnishing of the surgery.

The walls, ceiling and joinery were painted and enamelled, usually in a light green colour which was very restful for the eyes. The floor was either covered with linoleum or left bare, in which case the wood was highly polished. In Papakura, Trentham and Burnham it was remarkable how well the floor kept its ballroom appearance in spite of the tramp of many pairs of hobnailed boots, and it reflects great credit on the orderlies who spent so much time and effort on its care.

Heating in winter was in most cases of the tubular electric type although some of the smaller hospitals had a coke heater standing on a concrete block. Adequate heat is essential in a dental hospital as without it the work must suffer. The occasion of the treatment of the Railway Construction companies in Ngaruawahia in 1940, already mentioned, is a case in point. Without drums of red-hot page 100 coke between the chairs, the operators' hands would have been too cold to work and the patients could not have sat out the appointments. The method of using braziers such as this is not recommended as a routine practice, however, and the writer who was in charge of the unit at that time must confess that he was haunted by the spectre of carbon monoxide poisoning, which happily did not arise.

Compressed air for the unit was provided by an electric motor and tank situated in the workroom with a pipe through to the surgery.

The hospitals in the mobilisation camps and the larger Air Force stations had, besides the main surgery, two rooms for extractions, oral surgery, general anaesthetics and X-rays, with a darkroom for processing films. The attempt to provide a private surgery for the use of the PDO of mobilisation camps, presumably to work on Very Important Personages, was not a success. In the first place, it was placed right opposite the main door, which was the draughtiest part of the building, and secondly the exalted patients usually expressed a wish to take their seats in the common row.