Guggenheim Dental Clinic

dental-sedation-new-york-ny Were you a Guggenheim Dental Clinic patient?

 Many patients over the years have mentioned the Guggenheim Dental Clinic as the source of their paralyzingly dental fear.  The “Guggenheim” was a public program that provided access to dental care for New York City children for decades.  

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Children from religious based and public schools were transported to the clinic.  Raw fear was communicated amongst the children.  Interestingly, I’ve encountered people from all over the world who were treated in similar circumstances resulting in extreme dental fear.  I feel that a lack of parental support, and supervision, as well as authoritarian treatment, were key factors.  Lifelong fears were instilled for these early school-age kids.

While former Guggenheim patients may never forget their memories, a series of good experiences as adults can help.  Discussing these experiences with a trusted friend or professional is also beneficial.

If you were a Guggenheim Dental Clinic patient, I understand, and I’m here to help. Please don’t hesitate to give me a call. We can work together and provide a home for your dental care. 212.974.8737

44 thoughts on “Guggenheim Dental Clinic”

  1. Geraldine Walsh, Pediatric nurse practitioner

    I was a Guggenheim patient and can attest to the terror of the children removed from classrooms (random?) onto the bus to Guggenheim. At age 6 I had an extraction (why?). The dentist slapped me because I cried.
    I have had root canals, implants, oral surgery; no problem. Two years ago I had an extraction and cried from the time I heard, hysterical in the chair. I took the Propofol. Yesterday I had a toothache, left lower wisdom tooth, loose. I am crying as I write this.

  2. Feelings of anxiety from past traumas can be very overwhelming. I’ve heard many stories about the Guggenheim, all of which led to much dental anxiety and avoidance of care. In regard to your pain, you should have this addressed as soon as possible. You can give us a call, and we’ll do our best to help you through this.
    Best always,
    Lou Siegelman
    (212) 974-8737

  3. I also went to this dental clinic as a young child. The fear I feel now at the dentist has everything to do with that experience. Inner city children bused to the city to br experimented on by students from all over. No adults allowed to be with you, which I’m certain today would be against the law. I still remember the elevator with the gate that closed and depending on what floor, you would know what was being done. That place was horrible and to this day I fear the dentist

  4. I’m 78 yrs old. I remember very well the fear of every Monday, being bussed to the Guggenheim clinic. We were 6, 7 or 8 yrs old.They NEVER gave you a shot. They drilled and pulled even if you didn’t need it. We were all so scared . We were used for their learning. That’s why today I have such bad teeth. And , I fear going to dentists.

  5. You are not alone in your experience with the Guggenheim clinic. After this type of encounter going to the dentist can be difficult, and I’m sorry these past experiences have affected your oral health. If there is any way we can help lift this burden, please don’t hesitate to call.

  6. Marilyn, Thank you for your comment. These types of bad experiences often make going to the dentist stressful and lead to avoidance of care, but there are ways to overcome the fear. If you have any questions about dental anxiety or modern dentistry, please give us a call.

  7. Derrick Simpson Wilson

    Yes, I was one of the many traumatized victims of that horror house they called a dental clinic. To this very day, people I speak to about Guggenheim find it hard to believe that we were experimented on once we arrived there by bus from the public school I attended in Astoria, New York, in the late fifties and early sixties. They would drill and extract our teeth without any anesthesia. Incidentally, most of the pupils were Black and Hispanic.

  8. Thank you for your comment. We’ve met many people with the same experience at the Guggenheim clinic. This type of dental history can keep people away from the dentist for decades. Please know we are here for support and happy to help you in any way.

  9. I was a parochial school student from the mid sixties to early seventies. I was one of those bussed from school to the Guggenheim dental school of horrors. To this date I have a very difficult time going to dentist, my teeth have to be in a bad way for me to go and have anything done!

  10. I was about 9 years old, in public school when I was taken to the Guggenheim Clinic for an extraction. I have blocked out the details other than that I was separated from my mother and the children were treated like cattle! I had nightmares for years and inordinate distaste for the name “Guggenheim” since. I thought that it was all a dream until I ran into two others as an adult who’d had the same traumatic experiences at that clinic. I haven’t been to the Guggenheim Museum because of the name!!! I am nearly 64 years old.

  11. Clifford Robinson

    Every time I get ready for my twice a year dental cleanings, I think back to the horrors I experienced at the Guggenheim Dental Clinic when I was in elementary school in New York City. My memories of my experiences there caused me to have what I now understand is PTSD. The “dentists” were dyed in the wool sadists, who appeared to derive pleasure from inflicting pain and fear. Many of them were trainees and might have been recruited from Nazi death camps after the war. I now understand the utter debasement and cruelty that these animals inflicted on a poor, heavily minority, powerless population. We were exploited for their training and career advancement. I cannot tell you how often I have wished that they burn in hell.

    I am now 70 and the experiences there still weigh heavily on me. I did not see a dentist for over 25 years because of the phobia I developed about dental care. Unfortunately my absence from the dental chair meant that I spent tens of thousands of dollars on periodontal surgeries, implants and other procedures. I sustained these costs despite have very good dental insurance.
    There must be a special place in hell for this abomination of a place. I sincerely hope that the folks who had similar experiences have recovered from the abuse. I will never forgive them or PS 102 in Spanish Harlem for sending me there.

  12. I was a patient at the Guggenheim dental clinic in the early 1960’s. I always enjoyed my visits. I was treated well and kindly. I enjoyed the cartoon characters on the wall as well as the furniture that was meant for children. I am 68 years old I still have all my teeth and that started at the Guggenheim Clinic..!

  13. Clifford Robinson

    At 70 years of age, I still remember the torture I endured at the Guggenheim Clinic as an elementary school student from Spanish Harlem. It is hard to believe that the City of New York sent economically disadvantaged mostly minority kids to this place to “teach” psychologically compromised individuals how to practice dentistry. The City and the NYC school system owe the kids and families who experienced these traumas apologies and recognition.

  14. I went to Incarnation catholic school in Washington Heights, yes they took us out of class and put us on buses, when we got there they put signs on us that told us what floor to go to , I use to pray , please god let me get the floor with cleaning teeth. All you can hear when they opened p the freight elevator is little kids screaming, a real horror show.

  15. I lived in Manhattan – my parents were European so they believed this was the norm, the usual offering for established and also new citizens … they believed this health service was one of the benefits offered to all as a matter of course. The clinic was lovely, had charming nursery tale murals … the learning-student staff were not kind to us very young children. They presented as non-caring, even somewhat (seemingly) sadistic – they never gave us pain killer shots of any sort. We are trembled with anxiety and fear that accompanied me into my late teen years when I begged my parents to please let me go to a “paying” dentist … The fear and anxiety have stayed with me all my life, even though, as an adult, I found a kind and gentle DDS. My generation did not benefit from fluoride in water, in tooth paste. Thankfully, my teeth did not require braces or root canal … pure luck! I am 76 and still recall those dental visits with horror and disgust, even anger.

  16. I can remember the pain slaps and being tied in a chair while they abused my mouth with picks and drills with any pain needles Every Monday for 5 years a never was completed there were many of Monday’s I would play hookie from school so I didn’t have to go on the bus. House of horrors

  17. Roseanne Clark-White

    I was a patient as well until the seventh grade. They had a field day In my mouth. I ate a lot of candy and had a lot of cavities. All I can say that it was pure torture. My teeth were drilled with no Novocain. I can thank them thou becauseI still have my beautiful smile. After your completion, you were sent a reminder card, which I still have after all these years.

    HALL OF HORROR!😱😱😱..1966-69??
    No anesthesia…No compassion! I will never, ever forget the cruelty treatment received there as a child and the sad part is that my parents thought it was a good thing that it was free services..😥
    I would DEFINITELY want to be apart of a class action lawsuit claim!!!

  19. I went there in the mid 1940s. I will never forget the drills that turned at a very slow rpm. I remember the dentist drilling my gum instead of my tooth. To this day I hate dentists.

  20. I remember going to this place when I was in first and second grade (‘59, ‘60). I hated going there because of all the pain I experienced. My mother stopped permitting me to go when I ended up with fillings on teeth that had no cavities. When I finally saw another dentist when I was in my late teens, I was terrified but pleasantly shocked when I received pain killer before being treated. I have blocked the details from my memory.

  21. I was one of the Guggenheim dental clinic’s child victims and at 67 I still am afraid of dentists. They basically used us as training for dental students and they did an enormous amount of damage. I even had an experience where one week they drilled and filled a tooth and then one month later they extracted the same tooth. With little or no pain medication. That was when my mother finally stopped making me go. I was bused from my East Harlem parochial school. I never will forgive those monsters.

  22. Yvette Fuentes-Kanatake

    I too went to Incarnation Catholic School located in Washington Heights in NYC in the 60’s and experienced the horror of Guggenheim Clinic. It was a weekly trip and still to this day can visualize the terror and still affects me. I dreaded getting on the bus. Entering that huge dark building, the elevators, the Huge drills, the smell, and the many extractions and fillings I had. The pain I endured.To this day I have so many bridges because they pulled so many of my teeth out. I have had teeth problems since then at a very costly price. I still get nervous when going to my dentist, even though he is the most gentle, kind, compassionate dentist I know for over 38 years.

  23. I remember having the same tooth drilled and redrilled so many times that one day the tooth broke loose and flew out of my mouth when one of these so called dentists was picking at it. Next stop – the extraction department. My teeth have been a mess ever since I left that chamber of horrors.

  24. Jeanne Wasnickl

    I was a patient at the Clinic in the ’50’s-60’s. I was shocked to see the responses of how many children were traumatized by these visits. At age 68, I am, to this day, terrified of going to the dentist and my teeth have suffered over it. Growing up in the ghetto in the Bronx, my parents did the best they could by taking us there. If you heard “go to 3rd floor” I can’t begin to explain the terror that would set in. I would almost get physically ill. The students/dentists were cruel to children, uncaring and set the stage for a life of anxiety. If I remember anything when I’m older and more grey it will be this place.

  25. Mary E Tolbert

    Like many of the folks on this website, I, too was forced to go to Guggenheim during my elementary school years. I am now 67 years old. Guggenheim is the reason I now hate going to the dentist and have had so many teeth problems. When I became a young adult, I asked my Mom why she allowed me to go to that dental prison. I told her how they treated us and she said she never knew the real deal although I complained constantly. I’ve gone to many dentists and never got all I needed done to my teeth. Thank God I finally found a dentist who is caring and reassuring. I told him of my visits to the Guggenheim dentist. He assured me that he would be extra careful with me and so far, he has.

  26. I was 6-year-old girl from PS 6 in Astoria when I was herded onto the Guggenheim bus for the first time. The year was 1957.

    My mother must have signed the consent form and promptly forgot all about it, or she would have prepared me. Some of the kids were weeping and wailing
    None of my friends were on the bus with me, and I was too shy to ask where we were going. That uncertainty for a sheltered kid was the very worst of the trauma for me.

    We were unloaded into the waiting room and made friends with the now famous Pied Piper of Hamelin mural, which was huge, going across two walls, portraying the Piper merrily leading dancing children who would never be seen again. And we all knew the story.
    You can’t make this stuff up!

    Anyway, outside of the anxiety, I suffered no trauma at Guggenheim, although after all these years, I still remember it very well, which is unusual. I was taken into this beautiful room where dozens of dental chairs were lined up in front of huge floor to ceiling windows, one window to a chair.

    Two nice young people introduced themselves, a man and a woman. My teeth must have been great, because they just poked around and cleaned them, gave me a tiny yellow toothbrush with a tiny tube of toothpaste, and led me back to the waiting room to say g’bye to the Pied Piper.

    I’m certain that other kids had it much worse. They didn’t use novocain or other pain-relieving measures at Guggenheim because NO DENTIST DID ON CHILDREN. A couple of years later, when I did have some cavities, my dentist was Dr. Stein on Steinway Street. He drilled my teeth for what seemed like hours, and the pain was incredible, but I endured it.

    Remember, this was an era when they did major procedures on onfants without anaesthesia, because they didn’t think infants felt pain.

    Today, Im not scared of dentists or pain or procedures. I had an extraction, which will be replaced by an implant, just today, and the reason I’m here is that I and my dentist were talking about Guggenheim.

    My best to those of you who suffered a lot more than I did and came out with fears that lasted. It certainly isn’t because of any wonderful traits of mine–more like the luck of the draw. I don’t know what to say, except stay safe, stay well and be strong

    Best. Jay

  27. I was butchered at the Guggenheim clinic from 7 years old to 13. They filled at least 30 teeth in mouth unnecessarily… just for practice. They removed teeth that were fine just for the learning experience. I hope every doctor & administrator connected with that clinic died a horrible, horrific death. They ruined my life!!!!

  28. Fred Van Sauter

    I also was bussed from Astoria. I still recall clutching the green appointment card, wondering what floor I would go to. Each had its procedures. At,66 I don’t recall the floor.
    I do remember the male hairy knuckles in my mouth. No gloves or masks back then. Lookin at the pulley system while the drill was going around. Praying he would be done soon.
    Recall the giant marble cold waiting room with the wooden Church pew like Benches waiting for the names to be called, to get on the elevator. My teeth since, have been a mess. Now I need implants. I was scared to death of That place. I guess it was free. So that’s what you get for nothing.

  29. I have dental anxiety due to being a child patient at Guggenheim dental clinic. They extracted a molar with no anesthesia, having 6 people hold me down. To this day my fear is so extreme that anesthesia doesn’t work. I now have to be put to sleep for dental work.

  30. I am now 74 years old and I’m PETRIFIED of the dentist thanks to Guggenheim. I was traumatized as a child, I will never forget the walk to the elevator, left a pit in my stomach. As mentioned by one user above we were herded up like cattle and stripped from our parents. We were treated terrible no compassion. When I go to the dentist now I grab onto the arms of the chair the same way I did then in terror. I remember being injected in the roof of my mouth once and making the sign of the cross to which the “dentist” screamed at me “what am I some devilish influence” followed by a smack. The horror stories this place left me with, traumatized. Until this day going to the dentist I cry. These people loved inflicting pain. I was about 6-7 years old going to this pit of hell. Only those who have experienced Guggenheim know the fear, horror, and terror.

  31. Right now I’m 76 years old and I must have been 6 or 7 years old when I started going to the Guggenheim Dental Clinic. Every Wednesday morning we were piled in a school bus and taken to this dental clinic somewhere in the Eastside I think, I remember it being around the 70’s. I have never been able to unload the fear I have of dentists. I use to call it the torture chamber. You waited in the lobby for your name to be called and then you received a big card with your name and info. Whatever work you were having done it would reflect by a number. Reception 1, labs, x-rays 2, Extractions 3, 4 & 5 Fillings. Floors 4&5 it was a row of about 25 dental chairs and all you saw were arms and legs of children screaming. Twenty-one years ago I found a wonderful dentist I saw him for two years straight until he finished my whole mouth and I never went to the dentist again. Now my teeth are falling out, lose and in terrible disrepair I’m scared to death and my anxiety is as high as when I was 6. The terror inflicted on me has lasted my whole life.

  32. My dad would take me and my brothers. We were among those terrified. To this day I have an aversion to fairy tales because i would read them on the waiting room walls. The whole experience was terrifying.

  33. at the age of 78 I’m still petrified of Dentist I had a tooth pulled with no pain medication and also several teeth drilled with nothing for pain I’m just glad they no longer exists

  34. I was a “victim “of the Guggenheim clinic. The torturer refused to give me novacaine with the excuse ” oh it doesn’t hurt!”! By the third time , I grabbed his arm and bit him HARD!!!!! He grabbed me by my hair which brought the head dentist over. He wondered why anesthesia was not given initially. He took me to another dentist to finish the work. That was the last time I went there,!!!!

  35. I was one of the many traumatized patients from the Guggenheim. I remember walking into this huge building where there was a sea of children
    mostly black and brown kids from the inner city public schools. We were taken into the elevator where you would go to the floor assigned to you whether it was fillings or extraction. There would be a long line of other kids waiting to be treated by a student dentist. When it was your turn to be seated at the chair and there were many rows of dental chair you were dragged by your hand or carried depending on your reluctance, you were seated and drilled without any anesthesia whatsoever. I recall the time when I was tied to the chair by 3 or 4 dental students because I refused to sit still. This has caused me much pain later on in the years to follow. To this very date and I am now 65 years old still have anxiety of seeing a dentist. Going to the Guggenheim was like going into a house of horror.

  36. In reading all these comments I am amazed at how many people like myself are traumatized still because if their experiences st Guggenheim. I was maybe 6 or 7 and I would pray not to be sent to the 3rd floor where they would fo extractions. Imagine the trrror a child feels especially without a parent to comfort you. Brvsusr of my own fears I never took my children to the dentist for fear that they would experience pain. I regret that now but o avoided going to the dentist st all cost throughout my adulthood. To this day when I do have to go I request sweet air even for a simple cleaning. I have to take zanax for my anxiety. It’s really a shame what they did to us at such a young age. My parents were oblivious of what the experience did to me.

  37. Is this torture chamber still in existence??? I was in elementary school and one of those unfortunate kids that was bussed to Guggenheim on Fridays. I detested the student who’d come into our classroom to announce whose going to that torture chamber that afternoon, I prayed my name wasn’t on it. It also terrified my lil brother, when his name was called he’d cry & plead with me that I go in his place!!……..he was that fearful.

    I have nothing but negative memories of that place, esp. the clicking and clanging of the badges they’d pin on our clothes to keep track of who is who and who goes where in the bldg. The dentists were cold and uncaring, we were just guinea pigs for them to practice on with no Novocain whatsoever.

    It took me yrs to get over my fear of dentists, I challenged my fears because I knew how important my dental care was to my general health and found awesome dentists throughout my lifetime. At 72, I now have the best dentist ever and no fears whatsoever of going to see him, he adheres to my requests with care and kindness, a rarity in a dentist.

  38. Lorraine Kurz Coleman

    I just read all the horror stories above and I know they are all true ! House of Horror for all of us, from St.Jerome’s…. Bronx. I’m now 71 and still fear my time in the chair. No pain meds at all, drilling’s or extractions, it didn’t matter how many or how high you raised your hand, they never stopped. .They practiced and learned on perfectly healthy young teeth ! Since those days I had several caps, and several root canals, and again just yesterday another root canal ! God forgive them !

  39. I was sent there from school in a bus , I lived in Manhattan and I remember crying and the dentist that attended me told me to shut off or he’ll throw me thru the window… I was in horror .. and up to now I cry when I have to go to a dentist, and I’m 65 years old…

  40. I grew up in Stuyvesant town. I remember my mom walking me to this Guggenheim, dental school building, I was six or seven years old, left to go in on my own, no idea what was going to happen, and then being escorted on this floor, passing so very many reclining chairs and children of all ages stuck in them, while adults in white coats stood bent over their heads, illuminated by spotlights , strange machinery, whirring belts, chisels moans and screams, rubber dams stretched over their mouthes, with big metal contraptions holding their mouths open. I wondered what these kids had done to deserve this treatment. It was confusing….horrifying and terrible,… like a medieval torture chamber, but real.

    I was very relieved to be released without too much torture, only to return again to this mysterious chamber of horrors in the future.

    My fear of dentistry remains to this day. I am petrified of drills and even the sounds or feel of sanding

    Thankfully today I escaped a day of having a crown replaced. The dentist suggested that I have a root canal… Imagine. Just the sound of that. Like a root planing, gum transplant or cadaver tissue.

    Although words like Guggenheim Bilbao seems to have a benevolent name, the word Guggenheim dental clinic evokes panic in me. PSTD

    my next visit to my dentist happens to be having a wisdom tooth extracted! 🦷 🩸 somehow that does not seem so scary. The dentist who performed my last wisdom tooth extraction gave me Valium. And he was a French speaking, deaf dentist in Paris, and made it seem like a very easy procedure. I was somewhat calmed by that idea…
    Especially the Valium.

  41. Can you believe all the detailed disturbing memories relived and retrieved so clearly from so many senior victims of this institute.
    Not only did Guggenheim capture the low income innocents from educational institutes they also field tripped teams of trainees to the “lucky ” schools with portable dental kits. Have drill will travel was their motto. The setup consisted of a plywood box on which was mounted a flimsy chair and a multiple pully cord articulated spinning drill.
    We don’t have to guess why the abuse to the underprivileged seemed so acceptable.
    Forgive and forget…..Hell no !
    P.S. 190 Yorkville.

  42. Guggenheim was a house of horrors. It never even tried to fix its many, many problems. Pain management was non-existent. I hate the place and the Guggenheim name to this day, and I’m past 70. I also have not forgiven my parents for surrendering my childhood dental “care” to those talentless sadists.

  43. I must have been in a alternate universe. I went to Guggenheim dental clinic as a child. I don’t remember ever being mistreated or tortured. I think there is mass exaggerating going on. If your parents didn’t want you to go, you didn’t have to. Not everyone in my class went. Parental permission was required.

  44. I was a victim, of Guggenheim dentistry. I remember a school bus came to our Catholic school in Williamsburg to transport to that horror chamber. Where we were treated like cattle, standing in long lines, pushing each other to the front, so we would not be next. It was dreadful . How could those people live with themselves, knowing what they did to us, innocent children, providing us, a dental phobia for life. I am 70 years old and I still have nightmares about that place. Just reading these stories makes me cry.

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