Dentist Harry Olmer, 86, former owner of Selbourne Surgery, Potters Bar, to retire

Retiring dentist, 86, spent 50 years scrubbing pearly whites

Dr Olmer has spent five decades making sure patients leave his surgery with sparkly pearly whites

Dr Olmer pictured with a colleague

First published in News Times Series: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

Most people spend their working lives looking forward to retiring - but one dentist is set to hang up his scrubs at the age of 86.

Harry Olmer, the former owner for Selbourne Dental Practice, in Baker Street, Potters Bar, has spent five decades making sure patients leave his surgery with bright and shiny pearly whites.

He retired last Friday - but over the years, the lovable dentist has made countless friends, gaining the trust of frightened patients with his gentle techniques.

The grandfather-of-eight said: “I have absolutely loved working. Seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces everyday has kept me young.

“I love being with people. This place has been my life for so long and I would have loved to continue working for another hundred years if I had it my way.

“When I turned 64, there wasn’t a question of whether I would retire. The surgery has become my second family. I’m very upset to be leaving.”

Dr Olmer is refusing to take up golf during his retirement as he finds it “boring” - and instead will spend his days swimming, taking long walks and playing bridge.

The Newcastle FC supporter was born to a Jewish family in Poland and survived being sent to five concentration camps during World War II.

On May 8, 1945, Russian tanks rolled into Therenzienstadt camp in Czechoslovakia and the then 16-year-old leapt from his bunk bed to watch the action.

But he was severely ill at the time and collapsed minutes later, before being looked after by the Russian troops who had come to free the prisoners.

He said: “If the war had ended a day later, there would have been nobody to save me. They would have let me die.”

Instead of making him dwell on his past, the young man's experiences gave him a newfound zest for life and he was determined to make something of himself.

After spending three months recuperating in a hospital, he was lucky enough to be among the 1,000 orphaned children invited to Britain.

He later completed a five-year dentistry degree at Glasgow University, and after marrying in 1954 he spent two years as a dentist in the British civil service.

In 1956, he bought the practice and moved to Mill Hill with his wife, Margaret, only cutting his working hours to two days a week last year.

Asked about the secret to getting patients to like him, he said: “Well, I always try to avoid taking teeth out. It can get a bit gory sometimes.

“This place has given me a lot of laughs over the years. I will miss every second of it - it’s been my livelihood.”

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