What are two words that start with the letter “D” and frighten children more than anything? If there was a national survey given to kids across the country, I’m willing to bet that the “dark” and the “dentist” would be the top two answers. So, when it comes to comforting your child about his/her biggest fears, a nightlight might work for bedtime but what do you do about the latter?
A dentist’s office can be an intimidating place given the loud tools, hygienists wearing masks over their mouths, and sitting back in a chair as someone pokes around in your mouth. I know several adults who still get anxiety over going in for a cleaning, so what could a practicing dentist do to make every visit enjoyable for a young patient?
Meet Dr. Jerry Udelson, Owner of Children’s Dentistry-Forest Park. Dr. Jerry, as his young patients call him, created an environment that makes getting a routine cleaning or filling a positive experience. The office has games to play in the waiting room, fun murals on the wall, and the staff is trained to be goofy with the kids so they look forward to coming back. Can you imagine that- your child actually asking you when they get to visit the dentist again?
Dr. Jerry was raised in Oak Park and recently celebrated his 40-year high school reunion at OPRF. After completing his training at Indiana University and a fellowship sponsored by the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, the former Husky was ready to open a practice close to home. The original office was located at Maple and Roosevelt in southwestern Oak Park, but Dr. Jerry was met with trouble in terms of what he was able to do with the building and needed to change venues. Therefore, he opened the current location at 1125 S. Harlem in Forest Park.
“I’m absolutely happy with this location in Forest Park,” said Dr. Jerry. “You always hear about ‘location, location, location’ and that couldn’t be more true with where we’re at. A lot of cars come down Harlem and we get a lot of our referrals from people who have seen our sign on the street.”
However, it’s not only people who happen to see the sign who choose Dr. Jerry to be the dentist for their kids. Children’s Dentistry had a male patient years ago who now has a daughter. This former patient was so happy with his experience as a young child that he brought his daughter to Dr. Jerry and his staff for her first visit in 2015.
“Keeping it in the family” is one part of the environment Dr. Jerry has created over the years. His passion for helping others stems back to his childhood when he cared for his brother, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at a young age. After years helping his brother and learning from long-time family friend Don Orr, Dr. Jerry knew that helping people was in his bones. It was only a matter of time before he decided how he was going to use this gift.
Originally, Dr. Jerry thought that being a dentist was not for him. This idea was conceived by childhood best friend John Cullington. In junior high, the pair would discuss lifelong ambitions where Dr. Jerry aspired to be a racecar driver or photographer. Cullington confided that it was his dream to be a dentist and Dr. Jerry thought he was destined for something entirely different. However, as time passed Dr. Jerry found one of his jobs of painting houses to be just like fixing teeth. First, you repair the foundation and second, you restore the surface.
“I thought to myself, ‘if John can do this, then so can I,’” said Dr. Jerry.
Now, Dr. Jerry has created a warm environment for families to come and have a positive experience at the dentist where it’s not only just about teeth. If you stop in the office, you can find Dr. Jerry’s 10-year-old daughter selling handmade jewelry for a couple bucks or you can get involved in the Candy Buy Back event taking place Nov. 2.
The Candy Buy Back event is a Children’s Dentistry tradition where all are welcome to come in and donate some of the Halloween candy that you acquired. Children’s Dentistry will pay out $1 per pound of candy (up to 10 pounds). All of the candy will be sent to troops overseas along with handwritten notes from the kids. “This is a great way to cut down on cavities while inspiring our men and women who have dedicated their lives to protecting the country,” said Dr. Jerry.
To learn more about Dr. Jerry, Children’s Dentistry of Forest Park, and the Candy Buy Back event, consult the contact information below.
Children’s Dentistry of Forest Park
1125 S. Harlem Avenue
Forest Park, IL 60130