Happy Corps Day to the Royal New Zealand Dental Corps!

We would like to wish a happy Corps Day to the Royal New Zealand Dental Corps – 108 years old today!
The New Zealand Army was one of the first in the world to recognise and implement the necessity of dental care for its soldiers, and was one of the first to create an army dental service within the British Empire.
Formed 7 November 1915, the New Zealand Dental Service Corps was created in response to the many numbers of men being rejected for military service due to the poor state of their teeth. They were tasked with the challenging task of improving and ensuring the dental fitness of the New Zealand soldiers being sent overseas, and to provide emergency dental care on the battlefield. Dental officers were soon stationed overseas, not only working at the New Zealand camps in Egypt and England, but also operating temporary clinics onboard the troopships (since often there was no time to treat all the men before they headed off). Dentists also moved around the front lines as part of mobile dental units attached to medical field ambulances and operated out of tents and abandoned houses with minimal equipment.

As a result of these demands, dental equipment needed to be portable and easily moved from one temporary location to another as demand required. The below pedal powered dental drill for example is designed to be taken apart and stored in a specially designed suitcase when not in use (see second picture). Likewise, dental chairs like the one pictured below, (which were also used in school dental clinics around the country for many years) became the standard due to the ease at which they can be folded up for transport and then quickly set up and adjusted to height when they got to their location.

The dedication and adaptability of the men and women who served in the New Zealand Dental Corps during the First World War created a tradition that continued to develop during their service in World War II and Vietnam and through into modern deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From all of us here at the National Army Museum Te Mata Toa, happy Corps Day to the men and women (past and present) of the Royal New Zealand Dental Corps!