Army dentists provide free care for Tuhoe town
Army and Navy dental personnel are providing free dental care to residents in the small Bay of Plenty town of Taneatua as part of a two-week community outreach exercise. Taneatua has a population of just over 700 and is within the traditional boundaries of the Tuhoe iwi.
Team leader Warrant Officer Ross Heald said it gave the 25-strong team a chance to practise their skills in the field as well as help an area with limited access to healthcare.
"An important part of our training is practising delivery of treatment in a field environment. This is what we do on operations such as when we deploy to the Pacific as part of a humanitarian aid response," he said.
"This time we are helping the Tuhoe community achieve some of their health goals and remove some of the limitations that may be preventing them from seeking oral health services."
Mr Heald said the Defence Force was working with the town after the iwi came to them for help.
"The approach was made by Tuhoe to the Defence Force for assistance in addressing the oral health needs of their region, through their local MP at the time."
A spokesperson for Tuhoe iwi said the exercise would reverse a generation of non-care by whanau.
"For those with the greatest oral health needs, this service is offering respite from a build-up of dental care neglect."
Ross Heald said the Defence Force were also travelling around six local schools to teach students about healthy living.
The team is made of up of six dentists, four dental hygienists, eight dental assistants, a physical training instructor and regular personnel.
The exercise runs until 17 March.