The health and safety of expeditioners in Antarctica is a top priority.
Everyone undergoes various health checks before going to work in Antarctica. There is a doctor at each Australian Antarctic and sub-Antarctic station. They are highly skilled, and trained in remote medicine including dentistry.
One of the most common questions people ask is: do expeditioners need to have their appendix removed before going south?
The answer is no. But doctors who are wintering at Australian Antarctic stations do have to have their appendix removed. This is because there is usually only one doctor on station during winter. Evacuation back to medical care in Australia is impossible for at least part of the year.
The requirement dates from the 1950s, when an Australian Antarctic doctor got appendicitis on Heard Island. This meant a very challenging evacuation back to Australia.
In 1961, a Russian doctor at Novolazarevskaya station removed his own appendix. With no outside help possible, he used local anaesthetic. Two expeditioners assisted with surgical retractors and a mirror so that he could see what he was doing. The operation was a success and the doctor was back on duty within two weeks. This is not a situation that Australian Antarctic doctors would like to find themselves in!
As part of their medical review, all expeditioners have a dental check before they go south. Expeditioners do not have to have wisdom teeth removed unless the dentist identifies that they may cause a problem.
The station doctor has 8 days of training in emergency dentistry as part of their preparation. This does not include wisdom teeth extraction.