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Samoan communities to receive free dental care from Kiwis

Two New Zealand dentists are the recipients of a US$5,000 Wrigley Company Foundation dental grant to help improve dental care and education in the Pacific Islands.

This year’s Pacific Region Grant by Wrigley, with support from New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA), enables New Zealand dentists Oliver Dugena and Joshua Torres to provide a week of volunteer dental and surgical treatment and education to at-need communities in Samoa, where there is an increase in periodontal disease and cavities.

Project leader Oliver Dugena says the voluntary work aligns with the New Zealand government’s ‘Pacific reset’ strategy, and that such investment in preventative health strategies is a crucial way to support New Zealand’s Pacific neighbours.

“We’re aiming for our project to make a meaningful long-term impact towards minimising poor oral health in Samoa, in a way that goes beyond the number of weeks we are physically there,” says Dugena.

The project team will dedicate around 30 percent of their time to education, especially those in distant communities and rural areas. A proposed simultaneous pilot study aims to assess the needs of the Samoan population and their beliefs in oral health.

Dugena, Torres and their team will also present to local health care professionals on the importance of preventative oral hygiene and management of problems. Following their visit to Samoa, they plan to present their research findings to the NZDA and Wellington Regional Hospital, to extend the knowledge of Samoan cultural barriers to oral health care.

In 2012, the partnership between the Wrigley Company Foundation and the NZDA was formed to improve the reach and quality of dental treatment and education to at-risk communities. The Community Service Grant programme provides funding to volunteer dentists and teams of allied dental professionals to cover the purchase of supplies, treatments and other expenses including educational material, to develop new and expand existing oral health community service projects in New Zealand and the Pacific.

“We are thrilled that funding from the grants will have a positive impact on oral health education and treatment for many at-need Kiwis and the people of Samoa,” says Victoria Hamilton, MARS New Zealand Corporate Affairs Manager and spokesperson for the Wrigley Company Foundation.

“The grants are vitally important to help dental professionals carry out much needed community service work for vulnerable people from all sorts of communities.”

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