NZDF dental team treats 420 patients in Samoa

Dentist Lieutenant Amanda Rowe (left), assisted by a New Zealand Defence Force Dental Assistant, treats a male patient in Samoa as part of Exercise Tropic Twilight.

A 13-member dental team from the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) treated 420 patients during their recent trip to Samoa.

Exercise Tropic Twilight, as the dental programme is called, was conducted by the NZDF from 8–20 May in collaboration with Samoa’s Ministry of Health. The dental team operated from a clinic at Poutasi village on the southeast coast of Samoa’s main island Upolu.

Major Philip Worthington, who led the NZDF contingent, said a range of dental treatment was provided to high-need patients, including primary school children and adults.

“We are pleased that we were able to provide dental care and treatment to those who needed it most but could not afford it,” he said.

Together with the Samoan authorities, the NZDF team also promoted the importance of good oral hygiene and a healthy diet to oral health.

“Oral health has a huge impact on a person’s health and overall wellbeing,” Major Worthington said.

“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.”

Through the programme in Samoa, the NZDF had demonstrated again 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.

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.