As a school dental nurse of 42 years, Madam Fatimah Faridah Merican saw her fair share of scared patients.
"There was one girl who stood outside the door and refused to come in, so I let her watch her friend," said the 68-year-old retiree. "The next time, she came into the clinic but didn't want to sit on the chair, so she watched her friend again." It was only after a few days that the pupil finally let Madam Merican peer into her mouth.
Her love for children was why her father, a dental technician, suggested she take up the course at the then Institute of Health.
She was in the third batch of trainees in 1964, and her proud father photographed her as she practised on the wooden mouth models with plastic teeth.
After graduating and becoming a dental nurse, the schools she spent the most time at were Balestier Primary School and Methodist Girls' School (MGS), where she checked children's teeth and gums for 17 and 12 years respectively.
"In the early days, parents wouldn't want us to refer their children to specialists for braces. 'So what if it's crooked?' they would say. Now everyone's so conscious."
Madam Merican was at MGS until she retired in 2006, and recalls fondly one girl in particular who would go to her clinic almost every day at 3pm and ask, "Nurse, can I do my homework here while waiting for my dad?"
"She still meets up with me now that she's married and a doctor," said Madam Merican. "So I tell her, 'I used to take care of you, now you take care of me'."
This article was first published on Aug 24, 2014.
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