Tag Archives: teeth

Fighting War on A Different Front…Army Dentists WWII.

While it was all very well for our Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies to follow Britain’s lead and declare war on Germany on the 3rd September, 1939, the reality was that our troops were far from ready to go.

Indeed, it appears that our young men had stuck their tooth brushes where the sun don’t shine, and their teeth were just as black. Just to give you some idea of the full scale of the problem, in September 1939 in regional Victoria of 2,477 men examined, only 301 were classed as dentally fit and many of those had upper and lower dentures.That’s not a lot of pearly whites!

With the army struggling to treat almost universal dental annihilation, the NSW branch of the Australian Dental Association set up a clinic at the showgrounds where a team of 80 volunteer dentists worked in relays of twelve. These volunteers included my grandfather, Bob Curtin, who had a dental practice in Macquarie Street and you can see him hard at work in the photo above.

By the time the clinic closed in September 1941, 66,991 teeth had pulled out along with giving 97,763 fillings and supplying 19,318 dentures. I can’t help wondering what happened to all those teeth and whether they’ve all been stashed somewhere in one of these construction holes you see in the ground. I’ve never thought of teeth as landfill before but given those numbers, disposing of all those teeth must’ve been a consideration. Or, perhaps the tooth fairy took off with the lot. In that case, leaving a penny under all those bottles of beer, must’ve cost her a pretty penny.

Army dentists cartoon 1940

Not unsurprisingly, the soldiers themselves were less than enthusiastic about fronting up to the dentist. Indeed, one soldier we’ll just call “Jack” spilled the beans on what was known as the “Dental Clinic Racket”. This was not only a way of avoiding the dentist. It had the added bonus of getting them out of all sorts of duties so they could head off to their “bung-hole” (bed) instead:

“To secure, immunity from distasteful tasks by this means a soldier would first make an appointment with the clinic. He would show the appointment slip to the sergeant and be sent away from the kitchen, or some other fatigue to keep the appointment. At the clinic he would plead some excuse for delay, and the dentists, always willing to oblige, almost invariably agreed, to make an appointment for another day, The soldier was then free to go to his”bung-hole” and rest. But we have a checking system from today which will kill that dodge. Of course, in a day or so, the boys will think up a new one.”

Jack then goes on to say that the dental clinic made a raid on his unit that morning:

“All the boys were examined for dental defects, and if extractions were required, hustled straight over to get the works. I’ve seen some of those boys rush up a hill with fixed bayonets, yelling like madmen. The enemy was only imaginary, but I know that they would, and-will, do tho same when shot and shell are flying. But when these men were told to face the Dental Corps they paled, and almost had to be driven to the clinic. If the Dental Corps, had the same effect on an enemy, they would make ideal front line troops.”

Eunice & Robert Wedding

The marriage of Eunice Gardiner & Robert Vincent Curtin at St Mary’s Cathedral 1940.

As it turned out, 1940 was a busy year for my grandfather. That photo appeared in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday 2nd July, 1940. While my grandfather was flat out trying to maintain his dental practice while volunteering out at the showground, a young concert pianist had returned from London to tour Australia with the ABC under famous English conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham. While I’m not exactly sure of when they arrived in Australia it would appear they arrived in March, 1940. At some point along the way, my grandmother was in Sydney and had a toothache. Her brother Les had gone through school with my grandfather and I’m not too sure if that’s how she ended up there with that toothache. However, that was the beginning of a new chapter in our history. They were engaged n the 23rd August, 1940 and married in December.

Well, wrapping this up has been a bit of a rush job as I’m off to a concert at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music tonight and I want to potter around for a bit while I’m down there.

Best wishes,



Shark Smile!

Sharks don’t smile.

That is, aside from the cheerfully reformed Bruce the Shark in Finding Nemo. However, who really trusted him deep down when he said: “Fish are friends”?

However, like so many things, it’s all a matter of perspective.

This week I discovered that when you look at a shark’s mouth from down below and swivel it  around, you get a smile.

And, if you’re really lucky, you might even get a toothy grin!

Shark Smile2


Me being me, I couldn’t resist adding some eyes but Mr Shark was smiling too much to even attempt a moustache!

Now, I can just hear you asking: “How on earth did you come up with this?”

Well, it’s not often that even this intrepid Australian comes face-to-face with a live shark. Indeed, I’ve never even seen a shark outside a tank until this week when a fisherman caught one off OUR beach!

Then, he caught another one!

Baby Bronze Whaler sharks which wouldn’t do much to a human but what about a small dog? I can just imagine the talk down at Dog Beach! Full Story Here.

So, it just goes to show how you can find smiles in the strangest of places!

This has been part of the Weekly Smile blog share at Trent’s World

What has made you smile lately?

xx Rowena


The photo  shown here isn’t “our” shark. It was much younger with much smaller teeth.

Happy Gappy…when the tooth finally falls out.

The tooth saga is finally over. Well, at least, there’s a gap in proceedings… a much bigger gap than I’d ever anticipated. You could almost drive a bus through it!

Our daughter’s first top tooth fell out yesterday. She’d already lost her two bottom teeth do but they’re not the same. The two front teeth are the real trophies!

Trophies indeed! I listen to all the first graders chatting away and the little hands go straight in the mouth: “Look, I have a wobbly tooth.”

The conversation then turns to how many teeth they’ve lost, the same way they used to ask: “How many are you?” when they were back at pre-school.

The more teeth you’ve lost, the better your status.

Happy Gappy!

So of course, our daughter was over-the-moon excited when the tooth finally fell out.

I, on the other hand, coped better than expected and didn’t have the anticipated nervous breakdown. I’m also really proud of myself because I didn’t shriek: “my little baby has gone” in the middle of the school playground where the tooth fell out. Part of me wanted to. The part of me which also wanted to superglue that rogue tooth back into position and let my daughter be little for just awhile longer!!

You see, that cheeky grin with the baby teeth…that’s my girl!

For better or worse, that’s life. Things don’t stand still. There is constant change, evolution, growth and I’d be the first to complain if she was somehow stunted.

Besides, my daughter’s excitement is rather contagious!

Losing your baby teeth is as much a part of growing up as learning to ride a bike, pimples and learning how to drive. At the tender age of six, our daughter has already been on her first date. Been there done that!

I probably sound like one of those mums who’d like to pause their kids somewhere in the pre-school years. However, I’m actually pleased and indeed relieved that our kids are at school and more independent. I want them to grow up… not quickly but in their season.

At the same time, there is something almost magical about those baby teeth. Me being me, I can’t help wondering… if Peter Pan could keep his baby teeth, why not our daughter? Once those teeth  fall out, the line in the sand has been drawn. There’s no way back. Your child is onto the next chapter…no longer your “baby”.

On the other hand, if those baby teeth didn’t fall out, there wouldn’t be a tooth fairy and the tooth fairy is so much fun!

Of course, the tooth fairy was quite a topic of conversation yesterday. Our daughter is a smart little cookie…an investigator who calls herself a scientist. She asked me whether the tooth fairy was real or just pretend. I didn’t know what to say but I didn’t want to break the magic any sooner than I had to. So I used an old strategy. I answered a question with a question and turned the tables back on her.

Then I issued her with a challenge: “You need to find out who the tooth fairy is!”

I could almost hear her mind ticking over and her mind ticks very, very fast.

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I’m going to set a fairy trap.”

I don’t know whether she set a fairy trap or not but $5.00 appeared this morning and she announced at breakfast that her $5.00 note had a special fairy wand on it. We hated to disappoint her but this was just an anti-counterfeiting feature and not a fairy wand at all.

She also mentioned that she found fairy dust on her as well.

Tonight the discussions continued. She wanted to set up a camera to photograph the tooth fairy. My very quick-thinking husband quickly intervened and told her that no one has ever seen the tooth fairy and it explodes or disappears if anyone catches it. He didn’t want to mention the beer fairy ad but that did provide a bit of inspiration.

Even after all this hard work, the tooth fairy’s days are looking numbered…a bit like the rest of those precious little baby teeth which are now hanging precariously, wobbling away with very enthusiastic assistance!

Meanwhile, it looks like our happy gappy could use a set of false teeth.  All these gaps might look rather cute but it’s difficult to eat.

She looks like she could actually use a few false teeth to help her eat. It looks like she’s going to be a happy gappy for some time to come!

I guess she’ll be singing all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!