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Hero image for Tales from Te Papa - Dental Nurse Equipment

Tales from Te Papa - Dental Nurse Equipment

Television (Full Length Episode) – 2009

In this mini-documentary, Radio New Zealand's Simon Morton investigates New Zealand's dental health history, from its origins in WWl to the opening of Wellington's Dental Service Training School in Willis St in 1960. New Zealand began training dental nurses in 1920 to address what Education Minister James Parr called an "appalling" state of childrens' teeth. Women were chosen on account of their 'maternal' approach (plus they could be paid less). But the the old foot-powered drill and a lack of anesthetic meant trips to " the murder house" were dreaded by generations of Kiwis.

"The murder house" became a popular term for going to the dental clinic, and the first documented use of the phrase "murder house" was in 1964.
– Te Papa curator Kirstie Ross describes the history of an infamous phrase

Key Cast & Crew

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Thomas Robins


Generic Profile image for Simon Morton

Simon Morton


Produced by

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The Gibson Group