Wellington Dental School was a world first

SARAH KRIEG
Last updated 05:00 08/11/2012
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CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ

GRUESOME-LOOKING: An oak cabinet contains some of the relics of Wellington Dental School's early years.

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Wellington's hidden treasures are horrors from the former Wellington Dental School, also known as "the murder house".

The Museum of Wellington City & Sea holds a variety of the tools used to train dental nurses as far back as the 1920s.

Museum registrar Abbey-Rose Lewis said some of the tools look "quite medieval".

The collection also holds an oak cabinet that comes complete with contents, including decayed human teeth and a "distinct amalgam smell", according to Miss Lewis.

The cabinet was one of the earliest of the school's furnishings and was designed to be carried easily from place to place.

Other objects in the collection include drills, syringes and a carving knife.

The school was well-known to those growing up in Wellington, Miss Lewis says.

"It is an important Wellington story because it was a world first in Wellington – proposing the revolutionary concept of preventative dentistry."

The training school was opened in Whitmore St in , and moved to its St premises in 1940.

The new clinic was part of the government's plan to have all children under 12 treated by the school dental service by 1941.

Children from all over the Wellington region went to the the school's clinic to have their teeth treated by the trainee nurses.

It became known as "the murder house" by the children having their teeth checked, although the term was never embraced by the dental nurses who worked there.

The clinic closed in 1992, when Wellington Polytechnic took possession of the building and began its dental therapy programme there.

The items arrived at the museum courtesy of an anonymous donor earlier this year, and add to a growing collection from the dental school.

"We're hopefully going to do a display on the Wellington Dental School pieces," Miss Lewis says.

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- The Dominion Post

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