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The New Zealand Dental Services

Another Milestone

page 250

Another Milestone

The end of 1943 marked the close of a definite period in the history of the Dental Corps in the 2 NZEF and it is right that we should look back along the road for a brief moment before leaving the Middle East for the Central Mediterranean. The first year, 1940, was characterised by lack of equipment and personnel so that extensive and organised treatment was impossible. During the second year 25 per cent of the Corps and a large amount of equipment were lost in the Greece and Libyan campaigns, so that again the full amount of treatment could not be done. The third year, 1942, the year of isolation already described, was a year of intense effort and marked the beginning of achievement, but it was not until the end of the fourth year that there was proof beyond all doubt that definite headway had been made in the establishment of a higher standard of dental health in the force. It was noticed by all dental officers that not only were there fewer fillings to be done but, in most cases, only simple operative procedures were necessary.

The following table gives a comparison of the work carried out in the four years:

1940 1941 1942 1943
Number examined 14,347 66,379 68,355 74,674
Number requiring treatment 10,170 36,083 38,211 39,462
Number rendered dentally fit * 28,785 35,962 37,635
Number of fillings 6,657 33,468 42,835 41,699
Number of extractions * 5,401 8,558 6,020
New or remodelled dentures 1,297 5,694 5,914 5,294
Repairs to dentures 1,308 5,222 6,584 6,830
Total denture cases 2,605 10,916 12,948 12,124
Maxillo-facial cases admitted and treated 12 36 62 55

The full officer strength of the Corps was not reached until January 1942 but was steady from that date onwards. 1942 and 1943 therefore provide the most interesting comparison and, for that purpose, it must be stated that the figures given above do not include work done for other than New Zealand troops.

It will be noted that, in spite of the fact that 6319 more examinations were carried out in 1943 than in 1942, only 1251 more required treatment, indicating a greater number of dentally fit mouths in the force. Also, even with an extra 1251 men to treat, 1136 fewer fillings were needed to make them dentally fit. Dentures were reasonably constant in number but are no guide to a standard of dental health. It will be noted that 2538 fewer extractions were needed in 1943, showing that conservative treatment was having a beneficial effect.

page 251

On 10 September 1943 the OC 1 Mobile Dental Unit received the following memorandum:

The GOC 2 NZEF has instructed me to express to you his appreciation of your work with the Division. He realises the large amount of work involved and the high dental standard of the Division.

signed: R. D. King,
Colonel, NZMC.1

ADMS 2 NZ Div.

1 Brig R. D. King, CBE, DSO, m.i.d.; Greek Medallion for Distinguished Deed; Timaru; born Timaru, 25 Feb 1896; medical practitioner; 1 NZEF 1918–19 (Private, NZMC); physician 1 Gen Hosp 1940–41; CO 4 Fd Amb 1942–43; ADMS 2 NZ Div Jun 1943–Dec 1944; DDMS NZ Corps Feb–Mar 1944.