Story: Dental care

Bombing Bertie the germ

In the 1920s the Department of Health also began an advertising campaign to encourage healthy eating and personal dental care, utilising posters, exhibitions at agricultural shows, health weeks and lectures. The campaigns continued into the 1960s, increasingly using radio, film and television.

'Bertie the germ' was a constant focus of attention in Department of Health advertisements aimed at children in the 1940s and 1950s. Cleaning your teeth and eating fresh fruit and vegetables were a way of keeping Bertie the germ at bay and avoiding tooth decay. In this poster, developed by Railway Studios for the Department of Health in the 1940s, patriotism associated with the Second World War is harnessed to advance the case for fresh fruit and vegetables, which are dropped by a bomber plane on the unsuspecting Bertie.

The radio health talk from the 1950s focuses on how appearance is enhanced by healthy teeth and advocates tooth brushing and eating fresh fruit and vegetables – the bombs unleashed on Bertie the germ.

Courtesy of the Ministry of Health.

Sound file from Radio New Zealand Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero. Any re-use of this audio is a breach of copyright. To request a copy of the recording, contact Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero (Health Talk No. 368 How Do Your Teeth Look. North Island/Reference number sa-d-10527-s01-pm)

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: Eph-C-DENTAL-1950s-02

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Andrew Schmidt and Susan Moffat, 'Dental care - Wartime and state-supported dental care', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/speech/30590/bombing-bertie-the-germ (accessed 24 November 2020)

Story by Andrew Schmidt and Susan Moffat, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 6 Nov 2018