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Hundreds of 'high-needs patients' in Samoa get dental work from NZ Defence Force

Hundreds of patients, including children, in Samoa have received much-needed dental work thanks to the New Zealand Defence Force.

A 13-member dental team treated 420 patients during their recent trip.

The dental team operated on "high-needs patients", from primary school children to adults, in a clinic at Poutasi village on the southeast coast of Samoa’s main island Upolu.

"We are pleased that we were able to provide dental care and treatment to those who needed it most but could not afford it," Major Philip Worthington says.

"Oral health has a huge impact on a person’s health and overall wellbeing ... poor oral health can limit our ability to eat, socialise and speak normally. Toothache, for example, can prevent kids from sleeping or concentrating in school."

The dental programme, Exercise Tropic Twilight, was carried out from May 8 to 20. The work was done in collaboration with Samoa’s Ministry of Health.

Dental Hygienist Sergeant Renee Mudgway (right), assisted by Dental Assistant Lance Corporal Nadine Nitschke, treats a female patient in Samoa as part of Exercise Tropic Twilight.
Dental Hygienist Sergeant Renee Mudgway, right, assisted by Dental Assistant Lance Corporal Nadine Nitschke, treats a woman in Samoa as part of Exercise Tropic Twilight. Source: NZDF

The programme also demonstrated its dental team’s ability to deploy and operate effectively overseas, Major Worthington said.

"It was also a great learning opportunity for some of our personnel, who had deployed overseas for the first time."

The NZDF has conducted similar dental care programmes in Hawke’s Bay, Bay of Plenty, Kaitaia, Vanuatu and Samoa. 

Dentist Lieutenant Amanda Rowe, assisted by a New Zealand Defence Force Dental Assistant, treats a man in Samoa as part of Exercise Tropic Twilight.
Dentist Lieutenant Amanda Rowe, assisted by a New Zealand Defence Force Dental Assistant, treats a man in Samoa as part of Exercise Tropic Twilight. Source: 1 NEWS