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Dentistry at the start of the NHS: a patient's experience

Blog Author Keith Condliffe

Blog Date 10/07/2018


As a 15-year-old apprentice engineer in 1947 I attended the dental surgery on a Mr Arthur Edward Haward, at 199 Yorkshire Street, Rochdale.


Mr Haward was a very kind and gentle man who took me under his wing, after at first reprimanding me for having neglected my teeth for so long.


He informed me that I would require to attend his surgery every Saturday morning till further notice because such a lot of work was needed.

After much drilling and filling he stated that only two tasks remained. A broken tooth at the front required a tip and an eye tooth just off the centre needed a cap and he proposed that he would use gold to accomplish the task.


The possible cost caused me considerable disquiet since my weekly wage was 28 shillings of which I was allowed to keep six shillings.


Don’t worry said my dentist, by the time we are finished it will be all part of the new NHS service.

In the following weeks he explained how he would drill two holes in my front tooth to fit the platinum dowels, and then use the lost wax process to mould a new tip for my tooth.


He then described how by twisting a piece of wire around my second tooth he would know exactly its circumference and using that as the circumference of his gold sheet he could then form that into a crown.

From then on, I could always joke that my fortune was in my smile.

I think that the dentists name was Mr Hayward but I am not certain of that. I am sure however of his engineering and dental skills, and of his kindness and patience over many weeks.


As a teacher of engineering I have on numerous occasions been able to refer to the techniques he taught me 70 years ago.

Keith Condliffe

Dental patient


(pictured above at 19-years-old, during his national service in the RAF)


Celebrating 70 years of NHS dentistry

This year marks 70 years since the birth of the NHS. We take a look at the history and development of NHS dentistry since it's inception and celebrate the work of NHS dentists across the UK today, as well as the challenges still faced in terms of ensuring good oral health for all - find out more.


If you remember being a dental patient at the start of the NHS in 1948, please share your story with us.