Dental Fear


by Dr. Ilya Zak

This is one of the top problems patients have in coming to the dentist and one of the top comments we hear from the patients.

My name is Dr. Ilya Zak and I would like to share a personal story which actually propelled me into the profession when I was a child.

I was 6 years old and growing up in Russia.  One morning my tooth started hurting me a great deal.  My mom scheduled me to see a dentist.  This place was a large dental clinic in the middle of Moscow set up in a hospital type setting.  It was 4 stories tall and housed different specialists on different floors.

My father was one of the dentists working in this clinic on the 4th floor which was the prosthodontic department.  The children’s clinic was on the first floor.

When my mom brought me to the pediatric dentist he knew I was a referral from my father, his colleague, and took “extra” care to be attentive to me.  He examined by painful tooth and quickly advised my mom that it needed an extraction.  My mom agreed to proceed with the extraction and the dentist quickly began the process.

“Open your mouth, Ilya” he said to me in a very stern tone.

I cooperated immediately even though I was super scared but did not want to embarrass my parents and wanted to be an adult about it.  My mom also told me at home that I may need an injection which would be a little pinch and after I would not feel anything at all…

All of a sudden this dentist took out a large tool and began to advance towards my mouth.  Imagine my surprise and shock when he stuck this instrument in my mouth and started pulling on my tooth.  “What no shot?” I quickly thought to myself.  But I clamped down my little hands on the chair and tried to be a “man” and bear the process.

At some point the process of him pulling my tooth with no anesthetic became unbearable and I began to scream.  But the dentist to my surprise would not stop and just said to me “Just wait little man, I am almost done”…

This “almost done” seemed to last forever and I continued to scream louder and louder.  Finally I saw my dad,  who came down because he heard me scream on the 4th floor.  He began speaking to the dentist who was very aggravated with me for my child-like behavior.   I felt like I let my parents down.

This was the experience I never forgot in my entire life.  It happened in 1972 behind the Iron Curtain and haunted me for years.  I actually think this helps me daily in my career as a doctor.  I hear this quite a lot.  “I was hurt as a child”.

When you say this, I don’t think you’re alone.  Dental pain and anxiety management has evolved tremendously in the last 50 years.  At  Zak Dental  the most effective ones have been implemented.    The greatest satisfaction I have as a dentist is to hear my patient’s say…”Doctor this was the best visit I ever had”.

This article is the first in the series of Dental Fear Management articles for the month of June 2015.

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