Dentists for Anxious or Fearful Patients

Parent Q&A

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  • I have an extreme fear/ anxiety around going to the dentist and have avoided doing so for an embarrassingly long time.

    When I was 18 I had veneers put in my 12 front teeth. Now (20+ years later) I have pain that I believe is related to the veneers.  

    I am looking for a dentist who:

    1) has experience with veneers but ideally isn't into them or isn't pushing cosmetic dentistry as his main thing 

    2) can help with anxiety by prescribing anti-anxiety Rx prior to my appointments. 

    3) will recomend the least work necessary. Not try to upsell or do work when watching and waiting would suffice. 

    4) won't lecture me about my lack of dental care

    I have a small mouth, big teeth (w/ veneers), a strong gag reflex, a long history of traumatic orthodontics, dental work and oral surgeries. If I wasn't in near constant pain I would happily never let another person poke around in my mouth again. 

    I saw a post a couple of months ago and saw some great recs for dentisits that address #3 and 4. So really looking for recs that also address #1 and 2 if possible. Thank you.

    Try Ellen Pacleb on Solano Ave.  She is a trauma informed dentist. (I do not know about her experience with veneers). 

    I highly recommend Sonja Garden. While I can't speak to her work with veneers, she has a gentle demeanor and is known for successfully treating patients who have a fear of dentists.

    Howdy Jill,  I can highly recommend Dr. Todd Yerondopoulos.  He and his former partner / mentor "installed" my veneers and have cared for them for a number of years.  Todd and staff are supportive, kind, and you'd hopefully find them well suited to calming your fears.  Truly top shelf dental skills.  And don't be put off by their location; while I first went there to get veneers, I still go now for regular dental care, cleaning, exams, etc.  During my history with these folks, I've found them to be good on advice, good on suggesting we "watch" certain issues, but never pushing treatments ... ever.    Todd Yerondopoulos,  925-931-9100;  4455 Stoneridge Drive, Pleasanton.   Good luck,  Kirk out. kgmkirk [at]

  • Dentist for phobic young adult

    (1 reply)

    ISO DENTIST who is responsive to extreme dentist anxiety.  My young adult daughter with sensory and anxiety issues has finally been "graduated" by the pediatric dentist she has seen since she was a toddler.  She needs a dentist who is respectful of her extreme sensory and anxiety issues as well as propensity to cavities,  Must be willing to use nitrous for cleaning and light sedation for fillings, bonus for allowing or offering screens for distraction.  Recommendations?  (I did see recent referrals for dentists but not specializing in hyper-sensory sensitivity / anxiety.) Oakland/Berkeley or broader east bay preferred.  THANK YOU.  

    I highly recommend Dr. Erwin Yeh in Berkeley. He is incredibly gentle and takes the time to explain everything he’s doing. Patients can use nitrous for cleanings, if they need it. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

I am terrified of dentists

Sept 2011

I am terrified of dentists. I'm not quite sure where this comes from, as I never used to be. My pain threshold is rather high; I live with chronic pain, gave birth w/out anesthesia after being induced... and have been chewing only on one side for almost a year. It's come to a point now where I have to visit a dentist. Needless to say, I have new cavities, and also need to redo some poorly done crowns. I have heard that there are new practices out there, and am open to try them out. Thank you for any feedback ! Anxious

I can highly recommend Dr. Joel Boriskin whose office is in Walnut Sqare above Peet's. I switched to him when I needed a crown many years ago and have been very pleased with his calm manner, good explanations, and progress reports during procedures. He offers meds if you need them but you may need less with this office. heidi

There is no better dentist than Sandor Hites in Berkeley on Channing Way. He is so gentle, calming, understanding and reassuring, so focused and good at what he does and cares very much about the well-being of everyone of his patients. He will use accupressure on your ears or homeopathic assistance to eliminate any fear you might be having that day. He is a holistic dentist, who has helped many ''mercury-poisoned by amalgams'' patients with their recovery. Other dentists have complimented his long- lasting precise work/craftsmanship. His number is 510-845- 6494 Heike

Dr. Sherin Yuan took over Dr. James Stone's practice a while back. She is on College Avenue and she is really great. Totally informed, informative, gentle, kind and straight-up. All the hygienists are wonderful too, and they work as a great team. I have had the same issues. Tell them your situation and they will help you out. dedicated patient

Dear Miss Terrified,

May I recommend my son's dentist who is a general dentist and so skilled and smart and sweet and gentle. She is in Lafayette, and her name is Vibhuti Patel, DDS . (925) 284-7021. She also has glowing reviews on Yelp.

Once I thought my son had a cavity, and she assessed that he did not and further did not feel that he warranted x-rays. Another time we thought he had traumatized the tooth and maybe damaged it, and she again assessed that he did not. She also refused to charge us when it was such a brief appt., something she did not have to do. She is not inclined to do unnecessary x- raying, which has become de rigeur in the dental community, which impressed me.

I have my own very fine dentist, but he is not cuddly, by any means. Dr. Patel is cuddly and so competent.

I have two dear friends who are train wrecks about going to the dentist. Both need sedation just for cleanings, and they reported that she was wonderful.

Best of luck to you.

My dentist at Old Oakland Dental on Broadway took care of my multiple dental issues in one appoitnemtnt, handling my deep fears really well - with oral sedation! The entire staff was comforting and very friendly, and that magic pill made me forget everything that happened at that appointment. I just woke up with a smile that I dreamed about most of my life. Very happy and can provide more info if needed. The practice is at 827 Broadway in Oakland. Victoria

Dentist/periodontist for dental-phobe teen

Aug 2011

My 19 year old daughter is terrified of dentists. She will get her teeth cleaned but hates every moment of it. Now, she needs to have gum grafting done by a periodontist and she's beside herself with worry. I need recommendations for both a general dentist and a periodontist who work well with extremely fearful patients. We have Delta Dental insurance. Also would like recommendation for therapist who does short-term, results based therapy for people with phobias. We have Blue Shield HMO insurance. Prefer recommendations for Albany, Berkeley, or Pinole area. mom of dental-phobe

Hi, I definitely have a dental phobia. For years I was a student without insurance, and so I didn't really think or worry about not going to the dentist. Now that I'm working and have insurance, I can't really make excuses to not go. Even so, I had a hard time finding dentists and specialists that I liked.

I finally found Dr. Santos-Berkowitz ( Her office is clean and professional, but also comfortable and quirky. She is so patient and great, and since finding her, I've actually managed to keep my regular appointments for cleaning.

However, she recommended that I get a gum graft for one tooth and I chose to do this with a specialist that works out of Dr. Santos office one day a week without properly researching the specialist and that was a mistake. (I liked Dr. Santos so I thought I'd like the specialist...) The procedure started off badly, and I ended getting up and leaving in tears rather than have the gum graft done. Fast forward eight months and I was still putting off the gum graft. I researched and researched and researched to find a better specialist that was great at their job, calm and kind to scared adults, and thorough. I was extra scared because of the painful and harsh treatment of the first gum specialist I had tried.

I finally found Dr. Engert ( I made an appointment to meet him and was blown away. I told him about the failed experience, and he seemed surprised that this apparently common procedure could be botched so badly at the start that I had left. He told me abt his experience, answered all of my questions, took the time to ask about my specific worries, and all in all made me feel comfortable. I ended up getting the graft done a few months ago. There were some side effects, and as I was overly anxious, I called his office to check in more than once in the days following the procedure. Each time, his office staff were friendly, he called me back quickly with instructions, and now things have healed well and it's just a blip in the past. I'm going to keep going to Dr Santos for cleanings, and while I hope I don't need additional gum procedures, if I do I'm only going to Dr. Engert. Can't recommend him highly enough. happier teeth now

I would suggest seeing Vivian Lopez , DDS on Telegraph. She sees older teens and children . Try Carole Grimme for the gum surgery. My son who is 18 had this done and it went actually very well. She is calm and very supportive. We have great experiences with both of these. anon

I am a fellow dental phobe and in fact missed seeing the dentist for 15 years before being forced to go for obvious reasons. Josh Bernstein 510- 601- smile in Piedmont was amazing I started there with heavy drugs and tremendous amounts of kindness and reassurance. I literally had to be medicated to walk into the office. With his help and understanding I recently was fully conscious while he filled a cavity. It was absolutely painless both before and after. I don't think you will find a more understanding and gentler office. Good luck I hope you too find dental happiness. Anon Anon

Carol Grimm is an excellent periodontist. My husband went to her after a horrible gum surgery experience with a dentist. He's been seeing Carol Grimm for many years and is very happy with her. I don't know what insurance she accepts. annon

Check out Dr. Eric Citron in Berkeley, CA. He's amazing, been seeing my family for many years. Calm, experienced, efficient, and kind. If your daughter goes, let them know I sent you! (no referral bonuses, just a nice connection). Many cheers. A.

Gentle dentist for fearful adult

Jan 2010

I'm looking for a dentist for my family. We have limited dental insurance, which seems to be fairly widely accepted. A gentle dentist is important. Traumatic experiences as a kid makes the whole thing a little scary, so I want someone who won't be annoyed by that. Would prefer a dentist in North Berkeley or Albany, since it's convenient, but I'm totally willing to go to SF, etc. if necessary. Thank you! Holly

Recommendations received:

  • Joel Boriskin Berkeley
  • Meeta Doshi Berkeley
  • Steven Kobayashi Albany
  • La Clinica Oakland
  • Bruce McEtchin Oakland
  • Fred Pockrass Berkeley
  • Arsalan Rangchi Berkeley
  • Thomas Smithers Berkeley

    Dentist for someone is is very anxious

    Aug 2009

    I need to go to the dentist for what I am sure will be not just a long overdue check-up (I'm guessing fillings, maybe a root canal, who knows...) The thing is, I really hate going to the dentist (which is why I have been procrastinating soooo long) and often feel very claustrophobic, extremely anxious, and generally miserable when there. I also hate feeling like I am being evaluated or judged, or chastised for not taking care of things sooner. I would like recommendations for a very kind, very gentle, and very non-judgmental dentist in the Berkeley-Albany-Kensington area that takes Delta Dental insurance. I'd particularly like to hear from people have struggled with regular dental care but have now found a great person that helped them take care of old problems and avoid future ones... Need Dental care

    Recommendations received:

  • Berkeley Hills Dental Care
  • Wolfgang Boeck Berkeley
  • Howard Endo Berkeley
  • Shaya Hamid Oakland
  • Louis Mendoza
  • Arsalan Rangchi Berkeley
  • Thomas Smithers Berkeley

    Dentist who will use nitrous oxide

    Oct 2007

    Am seeking a dentist for an adult. Must be willing to use/offer laughing gas routinely without acting bothered or hassled by the request. Adult patient wanting not to feel stupid or pathetic for asking for nitrous. Preferably Berkeley, or nearby. Thank you. Patricia

    Recommendations received:

  • Robert Albertson Oakland
  • Ned and Matthew Herrington Lafayette
  • Ted Hochstein Berkeley
  • Lambing Dental Oakland
  • Ernie Lavorini Oakland
  • George Markle SF

    Seriously dentist phobic

    August 2006

    I am finally facing the fact that I need very extensive dental work after decades of bad work coupled with neglect. I am very fearful about the amount of work I require, not to mention the expense. I need to find a caring, understanding competent dentist who accepts Delta and in the best of all worlds is open on Saturday. The archives are out-of-date, so I come to you for recommendations. Thank you
    White Knuckle Dental Patient

    Recommendations received:

  • A People-Oriented Dental Practice SF
  • Frank Beavers Pinole
  • Barry Burstein SF
  • Sonja Garden Berkeley
  • Gary C. Hale El Cerrito
  • Amy Lee Berkeley
  • Daniel Lewis Oakland

    Dentist for Major dental phobia

    June 2005

    Hi! I have checked the archives but would love some updated advice. I am a MAJOR dental phobe because of some really awful experiences in the past. I have avoided the dentist for 3 years now and I desperately need to go. I have panic disorder as well so this is not easy for me. Any advice would be very much appreciated!

    Recommendations received:

  • Nancy Fenstermacher Berkeley
  • Paula Roemer Oakland

    Strong anxiety about dental work

    May 2005

    Hi, Does anyone know a dentist that is good with adults who have a strong anxiety when getting dental work done (so much so it's hard to even get to a dentist)? I'd appreciate any suggestions. Berkeley area is best but would be willing to travel further for someone I felt good about.

    Recommendations received:

  • Joshua Bernstein (Channing)
  • Daniel Cobb (Piedmont Av.)

    Severe fear of going to the dentist

    Nov 2004

    Due to a bad childhood experience, I have a severe fear of going to the dentist. But I know I must go and I am new to the area so I don't know a dentist that is sensitive to this kind of thing. Does anyone know a good dentist/prosthodontist (I need a crown) that has experience dealing with a phobic patient? Most dentists take the ''Get over it'' approach, which just makes me leave the office and never go back. Thanks. lynn

    Recommendations received:

  • Dr. Arnold Berkeley
  • Don DiRocco Berkeley
  • Nate Kaufman Berkeley
  • Roger Kussman SF
  • Ariane Terlet Berkeley
  • Dr. Van Dyk San Pablo

    Very, very sensitive dentist for extremely anxious patient

    March 2002

    Help! My husband has extreme dentist anxiety- the last time I was able to get him to the dentist I had to quit smoking as part of the deal (that wasn't such a bad thing, but now I have nothing to offer) and that was approximately 8 years ago. I would like recommendations for a very very sensitive dentist who has worked with extremely anxious patients. I would also greatly appreciate any thoughts about overcoming these kinds of neurosis. Unfortunately, his anxiety seems to be spreading to other medical experiences. Recently he took our daughter in for a lab test and he almost passed out when she had an x-ray. He won't go near a doctor unless he is in serious pain. I appreciate any advice or recommendations. I have checked the archives, but would like more recent info.

    Unless the guy is motivated to deal with this, nothing is going to happen. His teeth will continue to rot. Beyond that, I think a woman might be the best choice. I speak from experience. When I finally decided to deal, I told the dentist of my fear -- which included shame and humiliation for the state of my mouth -- we spent the whole first session sitting in her office. We never got to the chair. Once the relationship was established, I was OK. I also suggest that this might be best addressed as an advancing anxiety problem with a therapist and/or physician. Fellow sufferer

    Recommendations received:

  • Steven Kobayashi
  • Donald DiRocco
  • Betty Vodzak
    May 2000

    I need a new dentist -- with special qualifications. First, he/she must be able to deal with a mega-dental phobe. I could fill Foster Farms -- I'm a real chicken! Also, must be willing to limit work to what I want and not get offended if I am unwilling to do recommended procedures. I know what I can afford, and to what I'm willing to subject myself, and don't want to feel disapproval from my dentist. My current dentist has a bad attitude when I don't go see his specialists, or whatever. The plain fact is, I believe if the pain I'm in doesn't exceed the pain of the procedure, I ain't gonna do it!! And I don't want lectures from my dentist...I am not about to change my feelings about dentistry at this late point in my life. So- anyone know a dentist who is nice, gentle, and amenable to working with me???? I'm in Albany but will travel a little for the right dentist. Thanks for any suggestion. Linda

    Recommendations received:

  • Francis Carrington & Joan Seet
  • James Forbes
  • Nate Kaufman
  • Barry Kami
  • Claude Sidi