11 March 2019
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has teamed up with Hawke’s Bay District Health Board to provide essential dental care to adults with significant oral health needs.
From today until 22 March, a combined team of military and civilian dentists will be operating from the Cook Islands Community Centre in Flaxmere to provide oral health care information and dental care and treatment.
The team will also run sessions at a number of local schools to help highlight the importance of good oral health and healthy lifestyle choices, and provide defence career information as part of Exercise Wisdom Tooth.
Lieutenant Colonel Lee Turner, Officer Commanding of the NZDF’s Dental Services, said the joint initiative at Hawke’s Bay mirrored community outreach activities that the NZDF conducts regularly in New Zealand and the Southwest Pacific.
The NZDF had run similar outreach programmes in Bay of Plenty, Kaitaia, Vanuatu and Samoa, Lieutenant Colonel Turner said.
“For a number of years now, our Defence Force has been working alongside communities to support their health promotion efforts,” he said.
“Apart from supporting communities, these outreach activities also provide an opportunity for our personnel to practise their skills in a field environment, as part of their ongoing training.”
Bernard Te Paa, Hawke’s Bay District Health Board Executive Director – Health Improvement and Equity, said the joint initiative would make a difference to adults and families throughout Hawke’s Bay.
“The initiative has been given the name Tō Waha, which signifies the importance of our mouths in every aspect of our lives – how we speak, eat, smile, and generally how we feel about ourselves,” Mr Te Paa said.
“The messages and the treatment so many people will receive will make huge inroads to improving oral health and raising awareness of its importance in our communities, from Wairoa to Central Hawke’s Bay.
“School sessions will be an added opportunity for students to learn about oral health, as well as being able to take those messages home so everyone benefits.”
The NZDF contingent is a mix of Regular Force personnel and Reservists and includes dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, medics, career advisors and physical training instructors.