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

Posted in: Dental Anxiety


Responses:

  1. 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.

    Comment by Geraldine Walsh, Pediatric nurse practitioner on November 29, 2017 at 7:11 pm

  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

    Comment by Dental Phobia on November 30, 2017 at 8:18 pm

  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

    Comment by Marilyn Crockett (Parker) on June 23, 2018 at 7:15 pm

  4. 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.

    Comment by Dental Phobia on August 7, 2018 at 5:05 pm

  5. 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.

    Comment by Ronald DiCicco on August 6, 2018 at 1:44 am

  6. 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.

    Comment by Dental Phobia on August 7, 2018 at 4:46 pm

  7. 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.

    Comment by Derrick Simpson Wilson on September 9, 2018 at 10:57 pm

  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.

    Comment by Dental Phobia on September 13, 2018 at 7:20 pm

  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!

    Comment by Edwin Cabanas on September 19, 2018 at 2:29 pm

  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.

    Comment by Lisa Wright on October 15, 2018 at 2:10 am

  11. 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.

    Comment by Clifford Robinson on January 14, 2019 at 6:46 am

  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..!

    Comment by Jose W. Mestre on January 16, 2019 at 2:58 pm

  13. 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.

    Comment by Clifford Robinson on January 25, 2019 at 8:16 am

  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.

    Comment by Michael Treanor on January 31, 2019 at 3:40 am

  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.

    Comment by Anne on January 31, 2019 at 11:00 pm

  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

    Comment by Paul Shanahan on April 13, 2019 at 1:08 am

  17. 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.

    Comment by Roseanne Clark-White on August 14, 2019 at 3:48 am

  18. WORST EXPERIENCE EVER!! The Dental
    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!!!

    Comment by LaFay Allen on September 9, 2019 at 5:35 pm

  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.

    Comment by Henry Fromm on September 12, 2019 at 11:32 pm

  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.

    Comment by Gloria Morales on December 16, 2019 at 9:47 pm

  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.

    Comment by Sherry on December 16, 2019 at 11:48 pm

  22. 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.

    Comment by Yvette Fuentes-Kanatake on January 21, 2020 at 3:47 pm

  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.

    Comment by Joann Heslin on March 17, 2020 at 4:12 am

  24. 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.

    Comment by Jeanne Wasnickl on March 31, 2020 at 6:44 pm

  25. 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.

    Comment by Mary E Tolbert on May 28, 2020 at 1:12 pm

  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

    Comment by Jay Thomas on June 9, 2020 at 12:46 am

  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!!!!

    Comment by Rose Bucchignano on June 25, 2020 at 11:28 pm

  28. 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.

    Comment by Fred Van Sauter on July 8, 2020 at 4:36 pm

  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.

    Comment by Marguerite B on April 15, 2021 at 11:42 pm

  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.

    Comment by Ada Saldivia on June 15, 2021 at 6:40 pm

  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.

    Comment by Michelle Conde on June 28, 2021 at 3:35 am

  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.

    Comment by Anthony on July 20, 2021 at 5:06 pm

  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

    Comment by Virginia Frazer on September 13, 2021 at 7:40 pm

  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,!!!!

    Comment by Rita Berry on October 27, 2021 at 6:34 pm

  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.

    Comment by Candida on December 13, 2021 at 1:47 pm

  36. I too was tortured at the Guggenheim. To this day my visits to the dentist is a white nuckle experience. I think I was fortunate to have been banished from the clinic. While having a tooth being drilled with no Novocain I was screaming. The “dentist” said that it wasn’t hurting. He put his finger on my mouth and I clamped down on it. He yelled, I said it didn’t hurt. Hence the banishment. What a hell hole this place was.

    Comment by Sheila Oliveri on January 10, 2022 at 4:15 pm

  37. I am 72 years old and reading these stories in tears, I sympathize with everyone. For years I really felt like I was the only one who had such a terrifying fear of dentist. My horrific experiences started when I was six years old. Weekly bus trips to this horror house of pain. I was strapped into a chair and had numerous silver fillings in my teeth after they finished drilling them. My teeth are in bad shape now as I have carried this fear of dentist all my life. 72 years later needing treatment for an infected tooth and the anxiety is Real..

    Comment by Andrea Blackmond on January 18, 2022 at 8:39 am

  38. I suffered in silence for many years until one day i sat down with my parents and told them what was done to us. Myself and my 3 younger siblings. Only now do our parents understand why their 4 oldest of 6 children have suffered with so many dental issues in the past and to the present where most of us have had to have all or most of our teeths replaced. I still have nightmares of walking by the cubby rooms and seeing children strapped to the chairs being held down by a person in a white coat and another person in a white coat with tools in childs mouth while the child was trying to scream. I could not have been about more than 9 years old at that time. I will be 64 this year.

    Comment by Carmen Lopez on March 31, 2022 at 6:28 pm

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