Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Preservation order - on my teeth!

In which Mr Huws tries valiantly to preserve my crumbling teeth.  A visit to the dentist and a lesson in dental history, which throws a light on my own predicament.

The provision of dental care in the 19th century was definitely increasing. In 1887 the GWR Medical Fund set up a dental clinic with the appointment of a dental surgeon.  Four years later the expanding practice moved into consulting rooms in the new flagship building on Faringdon Road. Meanwhile residents of Old Swindon could call upon the services of visiting Bath dentist John Hay available every Monday 10-4 while Thomas Wrench (ouch) was practising in Bradbury, Chiseldon.

Mr Huws tells how a high point for 20th century British teeth came during the second world war with the restricted consumption of sugar during food rationing.  Unfortunately for our molars once sugar made a come back our teeth went into decline and dental well being hit a low in the 60's.  Education, improved toothpastes and fluoride supplements have seen our dental health improve and my three adult children are filling free - unlike me.

An elderly Irish lady my mum used to chat to on the 1950s school run told how she had all her teeth out at the age of 21 to get some lovely new false ones - no more pain and more importantly, no more dentist bills.  I thought these stories were consigned to history but Mr Huws told me this was still happening when he was a dental student working in the South Wales valleys.

My first proper dental memory was having my front two teeth extracted in hospital and a lovely male dental nurse who gave me a piggy back into the surgery.  I was under the age of five and not yet at school when my two front teeth turned black.  My mum blamed the condition of my teeth on my addiction to my dummy but whether this would stand up in court, I'm not sure.

There were regular visits to a dentist named Braggs on the corner of Gresham Road in Brixton, South London where I grew up; the residual memory of the terrifying rubber mask would suggest further extractions.

Despite the obvious attention to dental well being, by my early teens another routine visit revealed I required fourteen fillings - that's approximately half a mouthful.  I remember relaying this shocking news to my mum, but she never challenged the dentist's decision and I duly returned to the surgery across the following few weeks for numerous painful appointments.

Mr Huws was not surprised and shook his head at the memory of past dental practices.  Apparently I am a member of what is known within the dental fraternity as 'the heavy metalers' when zealous dentists were heavy handed with the old amalgam.  He points out that in 20 years of consultations the vast body of work he has performed on my teeth has been the repair of existing fillings - I have had not one incident of dental decay in all that time.

So where do we go from here? My teeth are the dental equivalent of the Mechanics' Institute building in the railway village, but patched and propped up, Mr Huws is not giving up on me yet.



Milton Road Baths


Consulting rooms


Consulting rooms


Dental laboratory

A tight lipped smile


Oh what the heck - flashing my missing front teeth


You might also like to read

Milton Road Baths

Great Western Railway Medical Fund

The GWR Company Doctors

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