Thursday, April 15, 2010

Toothbrush Drill - Maori Dental Care - circa 1940s

 Children participating in Toothbrush Drill, Te Kaha Maori School, Opotiki, circa 1944. Photo: Pascoe

The school that brushes its teeth together, reduces cavities together... Toothbrush drill seems to have been a device for promoting better dental care amongst school children in the 1940s.

Getting the equipment ready for the Toothbrush drill at Te Kaha Maori School, Opotiki, circa 1944. Photo: Pascoe

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Maori Dental Health Poster #2 - New Zealand Department of Health - circa 1950s

Maori Dental Hygiene poster, NZ Department of Health, circa 1950s

Okay, everyone, circular motions, front and back, and all the way to the baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack....

Spit & rinse, carry on.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Maori Dental Health Poster - New Zealand Department of Health - circa 1950s

Dental Care Poster, NZ Department of Health, circa 1950s

Health care posters pitched to the Maori community in the 1950s to promote good dental hygiene. Not such a good idea though to share your food with a horse, you don't know what kind of microbial life may be in the horse's mouth... and it might just decided to lean over a bit further and sample a toe! Oh, just realized that would be a case of foot in mouth disease - someone better call Biosecurity and a podiatrist.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Man Who Made It Possible - Colonel Thomas Anderson Hunter, Founder of the School Dental Service

Lieutenant Colonel (later Sir) Thomas Anderson Hunter, Head of the New Zealand Dental Corps, 17 January1918. 
Photo: Sttanley Polkinghorne Andrew.

Thomas Anderson Hunter devoted a lifetime to the progressive improvement of dentistry in New Zealand, participating in the movement to improve the training & practice of dentists by establishing the first dental school and university degree in dentistry in Dunedin. By World War I, Hunter was well-established in Dunedin's elite as well as the dental profession having served as president of the New Zealand Dental Association. 

The military call-up graphically brought to public attention the poor physical health of New Zealand's youth, at least the males of military age. Dental health was no exception. Fully 60 percent of recruits had to receive dental repairs. Hunter proposed a civilian corps be established to provide dental care at cost to military personnel. This work proved so effective that the New Zealand Dental Corps was established in November 1915 with Hunter at its head with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, promoted later to Colonel. Though largely serving in New Zealand, in 1916 Hunter traveled to the United Kingdom to supervise the establishment of dental units for New Zealand soldiers on the Western Front.

At the conclusion of the war, Hunter was appointed head of the Dental Hygiene at the Department of Health and it was in this new position that he sought to deal with the broader problem of poor dental health military service had highlighted. The result was the establishment of the school dental service staffed by dental nurses.

Hunter was a man of his times in which gender roles were firmly drawn. In presenting his proposal he argued women were better suited to working with children and they would be less expensive to train and employ. Dental nursing would provide short term employment between young women leaving school and getting married and starting families. Thus, later critics have charged this entrenched gender barriers and limited the opportunities of women to enter the private dentistry sector as fully-credentialed dentists. 

The creation of a school dental service staffed by women appealed to politicians as a cheap way to keep spending down in a period when government resources were stretched. Given the appalling loss of young men in the carnage of World War I, the resulting labour shortage meant that dealing with the dental care crisis would very likely have required increased training and employment of women in dentistry. Such employment also provided a better means of earning income for those who would marry late or never marry because of the lack of sufficient males surviving in their generation. Moreover, the chronic state of dental decay in the early 1900s clearly indicated that limited income prevented the general population from effectively purchasing private dental care. If dental care of children were to remain a private expense, they would have simply gone without. 

A biography of Sir Thomas Anderson Hunter may be found at The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

This Kid Got the Laughing Gas - New Zealand School Dental Service, 1940s - 50s

The Wellington Dental School Clinic, Willis Street, circa 1940s or 1950s.

The only reason this young lad could be smiling is the nurse just gave him a blast of the old laughing gas or she just gave him a clean bill of health.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"Hope You Have A Good Time At The Murder House" - Short Film (1998)

Now that the weekend is upon us, time for a little relaxation. How about a movie?

Why not hop up into the chair, lie back, rest your head on the soft headrest.... rinse and spit, and visit The Murder House (a.k.a the school dental clinic):

A short film directed by Warrick 'Waka' Attewell, written by Ken Hammon, starring the diabolical Tina Cleary. Made available by NZ On Screen.

This blogger remembers each and every instrument that appears in the dental clinic in this film, and he can hear the sounds and smell the smells of the Murder House as if it were, well, (a scary) yesterday,  in an age without novacaine. The horror, the horror...

Film trivia: the car that enters the driveway in the opening moments is the same make & model as kuaka's first car, a Fraud Anglican as we used to call it, better known as a Ford Anglia.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The School Dental Nurse Program in New Zealand

School dental nurse and patient at Waipu school. Photo: John Pascoe, circa 1942. 

If you didn't drink your daily school milk, eat an apple, and regularly brush your teeth, a trip to the school dental clinic could mean some serious repair work. 

The New Zealand school dental service was a world-first, providing preventive dental care to primary school children from clinics located on school grounds. Rather than take the children to the dentist, the dentist was brought to the children. Considered impracticable by many, the service was largely ignored internationally until it began to receive some international interest for many decades until the 1960s and 1970s. Such is the price of succeeding by swimming against the stream and getting spectacular results.

Colonel (Sir) Thomas A. Hunter, Director of the New Zealand Army Dental Service in the 1914–18 War proposed the idea of a dental school program staffed by young women trained in preventive dentistry in 1921. In the same year, a dental school to train these dental nurses opened in Wellington.

With the election of the First Labour Government in 1935, the program was rapidly expanded with new facilities in Wellington and additional schools being opened in Auckland and Wellington in the 1950s. In the post-war baby boom new dental nurses could not be trained fast enough to tend to the growing student population until new hiring and the new schools were built.

The school dental nurse in her "whites" and red cardigan (at least that's how I remember them) and her clinic (a.k.a. "the murder clinic" to generations of kids) quickly became a part of the school community, though children tread rather warily when in the vicinity of the clinic lest they be summoned inside for one of their twice yearly check-ups.

This was no statist experiment in the compulsory torture of the young: parental permission was sought and widely given. By the mid 1970s, more than 60 percent of preschool children and 95 percent of primary school children were voluntarily registered (by their parents!) with the school dental service, underscoring the high participation rate by the community.

Significant improvements in dental health were registered over the longer term. For instance, in1925 there were 78.6 teeth requiring extraction for every 100 teeth that were restored. By 1974 this figure was reduced to 2.5 extractions per 100 restorations. Although the data is not to hand here (I haven't bothered to search for it), one can expect even further reduction occurred from the mid 1970s to the present. Thus, many young adult New Zealanders today retain a full set of teeth, many with few fillings, in strong contrast to the first half of the twentieth century when many of the same age cohort had lost many or even all their teeth by sometime in their twenties or thirties.

Although there may have been a tendency in past decades of the school dental service to "drill and fill", there has always been a strong emphasis on dental education to prevent cavities in the first place. Today the school dental nurse is known as a dental therapist.

For secondary school students, the First Labour Government in 1947 initiated dental benefits for those up to the age of 16 under the Social Security Act 1938, with the government sub-contracting treatment to be conducted by private dentists in their clinics.

Further reading on the history of the school dental service can be found in the Encyclopedia of New Zealand (1966) here. Apparently an entry on school dentistry aside from a brief historical entry here and there has not yet appeared in Te Ara the New Zealand Encyclopedia - the current digital encyclopedia project of the New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Te Ara is a fascinating and expanding project, proof of the potential of digital educational resources and that tax dollars can be very well spent when the private sector finds no profit in such a project. [End of editorial, heh!]

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Free Milk in Schools Programme in New Zealand - 1937 -1967

Auckland school children knocking back half a pint, 1937

New Zealand's First Labour Government introduced free milk for children at school in 1937 to improve the health and welfare of young Kiwis. In the midst of the Great Depression, it didn't hurt to find a steady demand for surplus milk either. For a time during the Second War War, school children even received an apple a day.

School milk meant better bone & teeth development, as well as a "meal" in the stomach at time when widespread economic deprivation caused by the Depression meant many kids did not get full nutrition at home.

Between 1937-67, school children received a half pint bottle of milk during their morning class sessions. In an era before widespread refrigeration, crates of milk boats were often stored in a small slatted shed raised off the ground in some shaded spot close to the school gates. At least that was the case at the primary school I attended in the last years of the programme. Boys in standard 6 would pile crates on a hand cart and deliver the milk to each classroom, later collecting crates of empties to be returned to the shed for later pick-up by the milkman.

School milk was not to everyone's taste, especially on warm, sunny days when unrefrigerated milk would warm and start to turn. The crown of cream on top of the bottle's contents could also be a bit off-putting as it clogged one's way into the liquid below. 

In 1967, cost and some doubt about the health benefits of milk saw the end of the programme. In an age of "greater personal freedom", school milk gave way to expanded opportunities for private expenditures by ill-informed consumers in the guise of school children on soft drinks and junk food, the focus of "the concerned" shifting to childhood obesity and assorted ills. The more the wheel turns, etc, etc.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Guard Your Teeth - New Zealand Health Poster - 1940s

NZ Health poster, 1940s

And it wouldn't hurt you to obtain a mouth guard to protect your teeth if you are going to play contact sports or engage in extreme sports like walking through the centre of town in the wee hours on a Sunday morning...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Want That Milk In A Bucket? New Zealand Health Poster - 1940s

NZ Health Poster, 1940s

Would you like that in a big bucket? How about a straw? Grow big bovine molars & you'll be able to chew your way through any pasture for years to come. No need for fancy salads.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Chew Hard - New Zealand Health Poster - 1940s

NZ Department of Health Poster, 1940s

Chew hard, by all means, but gnawing on a bone like Keith might induce cracking & chipping of your teeth as well as the odd low growl, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...