Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 29, October 1985

By Irene Hughes

The founder of the State Dental nursing Service was Colonel Tommy Hunter, Officer in Charge of New Zealand troops during the First World War, who had been horrified by the condition of the mouths of young men. He was a distant relative of a young woman named Mary Good, who in the 1930s decided on a career as a dental nurse. The intake was limited during those depression years and she was one of forty selected for training out of 300 applicants.

She was dental nurse at a school in New Plymouth and later in the Thames-Coromandel area. Thames in the early '30s was depressed where people knew real poverty. Mary Good remembers many occasions when the agony of toothache in one of a few remaining teeth would have an old miner calling on "Sister" for help. Apparently they would bring their own bottle of painkiller!

Mary Good served the various small schools in and around Thames - a committee man would collect her in his gig "mirror, Probe and glass of disinfectant" and deliver her to the school neat and shiny in her starched uniform.

Support was negligible - dentists felt that the Nurse's two years' training could not compete with their six. And there was general feeling that as the first teeth fell out anyway they didn't matter - there was no background to dental health education. But Mary Good says "our inspiration came from Colonel Hunter and that gave us a sense of vocation which I would like to think still exists to-day."