A dental hygienist from Pinner who worked in some of the UK’s toughest prisons has retired after six decades in the job.
Kenneth Walter, 80, was told after leaving the air force that becoming a dental hygienist was ‘a good number’ (good job) and he never looked back.
Speaking about his time in some of London’s toughest prisons, Kenneth said he treated inmates the same as everyone else.
He said: “The behaviour was pretty much the same as any of my other patients, but I didn’t treat anyone different than anybody else. I would offer them general advice and improvement tips about their dental hygiene – some listened and others didn’t – quite normal like any other dentist.”
Throughout his career Kenneth worked at Holloway, Pentonville and Wandsworth prisons whilst practising at dentists in Bushey including Smith and Luck surgery, where he was from 1973 until his retirement last month.
During his time, he has treated some notorious criminals including Ronnie and Reggie Kray and Mardi Gra bomber Edgar Pearce.
He said: “I left school to do national service for two years with the air force and after I wanted to do something in dentistry. So I applied to be a dental nurse, and I completed a series of tests at RAF Cardington to see if I can read, write, see and hear properly.”
Kenneth passed with flying colours and was able to train as a dental hygienist after being urged to by one of his RAF buddies.
“My registration number was 148 so there were not that many dental hygienists out there,” said Kenneth. “The first thing I did was walk up and down Kenton Road trying to find work. They didn’t know what a hygienist was – they were totally unimpressed.
“Perception has changed a lot since then. Dentists now appreciate how useful our job is.”
Now Kenneth is enjoying retirement, he said the most memorable moment was when he said he was going to retire.
Kenneth said he “loved his work” and was flattered to hear he would be sorely missed.