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The New Zealand Dental Services

War Diary ADDS, 28 February 1941:

War Diary ADDS, 28 February 1941:

Under the direction of the ADMS the attempt has been made at Helwan to achieve TOTAL dental fitness with the result that the Division will be moving to the field with one third of the units totally dentally fit and two thirds who have had no treatment whatsoever. It would have been better to have made an attempt to achieve a practical dental fitness throughout the contingent and to have completed the urgent and important treatment in the mouths of all men requiring attention and to have left the minor cavities etc. untreated.

page 172

This was advised in paragraph 7 ‘Report on Dental Services’ dated 1 Feb. 41.

The reasoning was sound and the advice of the ADDS to this end was given to the only quarter available to him, the DDMS. Had there been closer co-operation between the ADMS and the ADDS this advice could have been given direct and the mistake would not have occurred.

There was one branch of treatment where the very closest cooperation existed between the Medical and Dental Corps. Maxillo-facial injuries produced problems requiring specialised medical and dental knowledge closely knit as a team, each part dependent on the other. The training of these specialists was being undertaken in England by Sir Harold Gillies, well known as a plastic surgeon and himself a New Zealander. Details of this training are given in the chapter on maxillo-facial injuries. In the early stages of the 2 NZEF in Egypt the dental part of this work was carried out by Captain E. B. Reilly, NZDC, with conspicuous success.

The number of maxillo-facial injury cases to be expected in modern warfare is difficult to assess. For example, in the First World War there was a very large number of cases attributable to shell fragments and rifle bullets. In this war there were fewer from this cause, probably due in some measure to the increased lethal power of the weapons which killed rather than maimed. On the other hand, the greater use of motor transport increased the accident rate and produced the bulk of this type of injury. Fortunately, simple cases, such as jaw fractures without undue complications, can be handled by the average surgeon and dental surgeon, leaving the specialist free to concentrate on the complicated ones. Again, the big cases are not treated in a hurry and one surgical team can cope with a large number. The emergency treatment for these cases such as arrest of haemorrhage, maintenance of respiration and treatment of shock is carried out before the patient reaches the hands of the specialists.

In February the ADDS received from the DDMS a file relating to the appointment of medical and dental officers for the course in treatment and containing recommendations from Sir Harold Gillies as to the control and treatment of these injuries in the NZEF service.

In March 1941 the Second Echelon arrived from England, bringing the force in the Middle East up to establishment. With the assembly of the Division in Egypt the organisation of the dental services was able to settle into place under the direction of an ADDS properly situated at a fully functioning headquarters. The experimental period was not quite over but the NZDC had won page 173 a recognised place in the 2 NZEF and a large measure of independence. This was further cemented by a fuller definition of the powers of NZDC officers in command of the larger units.