The horrors that awaited on excursions to Pegu Road

9 02 2011

One of the few things I really hated when I was attending primary school was the regular visits I made to Pegu Road. It was for me, something that seemed to be too regular for my liking, and the appearance of the dreaded sight of the white bus that was used to ferry us there parked in the school car park wasn’t something that I looked forward to. It was to Pegu Road that as school children, we would be brought over to by the class, spending part of the morning or afternoon as it may be, in an excursion that usually resulted in some pain and discomfort.

An trip out of school to this group of buildings at Pegu Road wasn't one of our favourite excursions in school.

Pegu Road then had been home to one of the schools’ dental clinics set up specifically to provide dental care to primary school children, which was supplemented by mobile dental clinics on buses which I guess were used to reach out to schools beyond the vicinity of the few schools’ dental clinics that existed then. It was actually the very first of the schools’ dental clinics that was set up, being opened by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, just a week or so before the merger of Singapore with Malaya in September 1963. By the time I had started my primary schooling in the early 1970s, there were two such clinics in operation, the other being set up at the Institute of Health in Outram Road. More soon came along in the mid 1970s and there were apparently ten such clinics that were added in 1973 – I remember that there was one at the corner of Aljunied Road and MacPherson Road as well – a classmate’s father was a dentist at that particular clinic.

How the inside of Pegu Road Dental Clinic had looked like (source:

Speaking of dental care, many would also remember being issued with a plastic tumbler and a small toothbrush as school children, part of a scheme to introduce good dental care habits to school children that was introduced in 1969. A tooth brushing drill would take place every day after recess and we would line up against a small drain with the tumbler filled with water and brush our teeth over the drain.

Pegu Road today doesn't hold the horrors that awaited us anymore ... but somehow, I am still filled with a sense of trepidation whenever I find myself in the area.

Visits to the dental clinic would have taken place every half a year or so, and for those with cavities to be filled, follow up visits were sometimes required. For many of us, that meant having to sit in the chair and have the dreaded drill shake the daylights out of you. Worse was when extractions were required and the sight of the long needle at the end of the syringe filled with anesthetic was enough to bring the look of horror on the face of many. Many times, dentists would attempt to placate the terrified child in his/her chair with a little plastic boxes or cases that would have been used to hold items such as drill bits – and that worked for some … but never for me … and to this day, a sense of trepidation still fills me whenever I am in and around Pegu Road.




5 responses

10 02 2011

i dreaded dental visits~! I remembered we would be ‘summoned’ to the neigbouring primary school dental clinic for checkups during lesson time ( there wasn’t one at my own pri.sch) . I cringed in fear each time the nurse called my name. Dental nurses were not the friendliest people at that time i tell u.. 😛 the fear of the pain plus the drilling was just a put off..

11 02 2011
The wondering wanderer

Seems like we all did ! 🙂

9 03 2011

Ha Ha Ha! My mum was a dental “missy” and she used to be posted to Pegu Road clinic during the school holidays. She was stationed for many years at the little house at Moutbatten primary school just opposite the Old Airport Road hawker centre. I reckon it must have been a good location because the screams of the children could be overshadowed by the many passenger jets passing overhead as they land at Paya Lebar Airport. I still remember the freaky whine of the dental drill. Makes my hair stand. But at least she made sure I brush my teeth twice every day.

9 03 2011
The wondering wanderer

Really? Don’t think I visited the little “house of horrors” during the holidays – so she probably wouldn’t have been one that I might have given a earful to …. hated the way the drill jolted you … and the after taste of the fillings …

1 05 2014

Thank you for this post! I too, identify pegu road with the dental clinic and remember the sense of dread, and the smells of the clinic, so vividly still. i recall staring at the mosaic tiles for what seemed like hours as I awaited my turn. I noticed that the picture above shows the clinic as being a single storey, but i seem to remember it as two. Does anyone know if there was a two-storey building as well or has my memory gone faulty on me?

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