School dental nurse at work

School dental nurse at work

A boy receiving dental care at Te Kaha School, Opotiki. c1944.


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21 comments have been posted about School dental nurse at work

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Denny Gaspar

Posted: 30 Mar 2021

I thought it was myself only that suffered at the drill happy hands of the NZ school dental nurses back in the late 1950s. I am amazed to see and read the horrifying experiences of many other unfortunates who frequented the dreaded clinics.
Every day I was called from class to attend the "murder house" and most my second back teeth were filled with those dreadful amalgam fillings.... Finally my mum took me to her dentist in Auckland City and he commented that I appeared to have good teeth and these nurses were known for practicing on children's teeth. (Years later a friend became a dental nurse and confirmed what the dentist had said.) These painful experiences with no pain killers and the smell of burning teeth, as the drill kept grinding away, has made me a life long nervous dental patient, And now in my 70s I have only a few back teeth remaining and yet my front teeth are in good condition. I can still see in my mind the lightly freckled face of that dreaded dental nurse.


Posted: 15 Feb 2021

My husband endured the School Dentist horror stories in the mid 70's and is now has nearly lost all has back teeth. How do we go about getting compensation to now have his teeth restored?


Posted: 16 Jan 2021

I was the only Maori child at my primary school: North Shore school in Auckland in the early 80's. I had really good teeth and my mum always made sure we limited sugar and brushed right. The dental nurses were always drilling my teeth, giving me multiple injections and goodness knows what else. I was in the chair one day and the new dental nurse had her boyfriend come in as well. I was never quite the same. I did tell my mum and I never used the dental services there again. I'm now 45 and have only ever been to the dentist 3 times since leaving primary school. I can't trust it. They had too much access to the kids and no accountability.


Posted: 02 Nov 2020

I was a victim of the school dental system in the late 60s early 80s. Every single one of my back teeth were drilled & filled with black fillings, by the same dental nurse, no xrays were taken, no pain relief given. I lived in South Auckland & I am convinced that these school dental nurses used the children from these areas as training material for them to practice on. I am now in my late 50’s & the trauma that these constant & unnecessary visits to the murder house caused me to fear going anywhere near a dentist to this day. Whilst all my front teeth have survived relatively well, nurse Murphy never touched my front teeth,
my back teeth are a disgusting & shameful mess. I am absolutely keen to bring a class action against the government, they allowed my teeth to be used for practice & now I want them to pay for my teeth they totally destroyed when I was a child. Does anyone know how we would start a class action. There will be hundreds of not thousands of kiwis who are in exactly the same position.


Posted: 15 Nov 2019

Waitangi Tribunal...? I recall being called in to the murder house when i had no complaints of dental issues, 2-3 times a week when there were 20+/- dental nurses at Mangere Intermediate... always drilling, (b4 the use of anaesthetic? &CONSENT FORMS) & being in pain for weeks after until being called in again when the pain (incl inner cheek bites!?)... always me & the other MAORI /PI kids. Now when those consent forms for my children are completed they have an additional clause - Consent to examine only, additional consent for EACH & EVERY treatment before, parent/Mum to be present.
I thought it may have been that my Mum was one of those young Mums, that didn't take much notice of these issues - probably didn't think to ask if i had a toothache needing fixing, didn't even notice...? One of the many child abuses situations that still affects life exponentially every day!
Class action I say, 15 of the past 40 year's income had been dental taxed in the 10s of 1000s... 25 years back home that is exponentially more, through the teeth that i try desperately need to keep but, losing the battle...


Posted: 10 Jul 2019

We came from a home with having no sugars in our diet and good food. Our teeth seemed good , but the dental nurse in silverstream Upper Hutt always drilled our teeth . Our teeth are filled with deep amalgam fillings , now they are all breaking and can’t be saved . Is there no compensation for us whos teeth have been wreaked by dental nurses from that era ?


Posted: 25 Feb 2019

My teeth were drilled out 5 at a time.
As an adult I have spent 35k trying to keep teeth . I've had many extractions. Implants crowns root canals and still missing extracted teeth that were drilled out by dental nurses too deep to be saved

Cazz S

Posted: 09 Jan 2016

My parents withdrew my brother and me from the school dental service because of the unnecessary drilling and filling of healthy teeth by the dental nurses at Tinakori Rd Clinic, Wellington during the period 1967-69. Seeing a dentist inspect their work was an extremely rare event - less than once per block of treatment weeks.

School made such a fuss about our withdrawal that parents wondered if the school dental service or government made payments to the school for each pupil attendance at the clinic. On the first day that I was due to attend my normally kind teacher lost her temper with me because the bus from school in Mt Victoria to the Tinakori Rd clinic left without me. Being newly arrived in NZ, I hadn't realised that the numbers and accompanying names that she had called out that morning were for the chairs at the dental clinic. I couldn't understand why she was so angry.

After our parents withdrew us, I had no more teeth filled for over 40 years! I'm grateful that my parents took action, though still angry that perfectly healthy teeth were filled.



Posted: 13 Apr 2014

Re: Johnnys...
As I remember it the dental nurses didn't use anaesthetic at all. They just drilled and pulled the teeth.
It was the most barbaric dental treatment I have ever experienced.
I actually kicked a dental nurse in the stomach at a school murder-house in Wellington when I was about seven or eight. She refused to treat me from then on and my father was called to the school from work. I copped a hiding when dad got me home and then I was dragged along to the a Dental Hospital in Wellington city. My dad, and two or three orderlies held me down, kicking and screaming, whilst a gas mask was pushed into my face and I was gassed. I thought they really were murdering me.
I was highly traumatised and later woke up to find the offending tooth missing.
I probably would have visited a dentist about five times over the past forty or so years and I have never gotten over my dental experiences during my formative years in Wellington.
When I was thirteen we moved to Australia and I have never been back to New Zealand. Not even for a visit.
The New Zealand School Dental system would have been quite at home in Nazi Germany, although I think they would have reserved its use only for non Aryans!

Jan Moon

Posted: 18 Dec 2013

when I was at school the dental clinic was known as the Murder House. Some children, when the last victim came to your classroom and offered you up for sacrifice, went home, but you couldn't avoid the inevitable.
By the time girls got to about Std 3, competition was fierce to do the dusting for the dental clinic - the reward were empty drill boxes, no longer needed mirrors and other items which were eagerly sought. My Dad used to do a great line in wooden dowel handles for any inplements we managed to score.