Most kids (and adults) hate going to the dentist, But in Elmwood Park, N.J., pediatric dentist Eyal Simchi has a few tricks up his sleeve to quell his young patients’ fears.
Dressed in gray scrubs, with a black kippah pinned to his close-cropped hair, Simchi, 39, distracts his young patients with a little sleight of hand so they forget to be afraid.
His use of magic tricks has won him fans both in his practice and online. His YouTube videos of him entertaining kids in his office have gone viral. His Facebook videos have garnered 30 million views. He’s even been featured on NBC News.
It probably helps that Simchi has plenty of experience with young children. He and his wife, Rachel, have six kids, ranging in age from 15 months to 15 years.
Jewish Journal: What made you decide to become a pediatric dentist?
Eyal Simchi: I didn’t plan on being a dentist. And, growing up, I never liked going to the dentist. I planned on going to medical school until a friend decided he wanted to go to dental school and said we should go together. [So,] I applied. He didn’t wind up going, but I did. When I was in dental school, I was on the fence about pediatrics and cosmetic dentistry. I decided to apply to a pediatric residency program and got in. I’m also board certified.
JJ: Where did you learn to do magic?
ES: I wasn’t really interested in magic. But one day my wife and I were walking through the mall and there was a guy at a kiosk doing tricks. Even though we were adults, we couldn’t figure out how he did it. My wife said that since I was going to be a pediatric dentist, it would be perfect for me to use in my practice. So I bought my first magic trick and went from there. First, I try the tricks on my own kids, and if they approve, I try them with my patients.
My faith helps guide my decisions and allows me to live every day knowing that I am following the beliefs of my parents and grandparents for generations.
JJ: How did the YouTube videos come about?
ES: We posted them mainly for our own patients, and then other people saw them. People who had nervous kids showed them the videos before they even came in to see me.
JJ: The kids look happy and relaxed in the videos, but what happens when the magic stops and you start working on them?
ES: If we can build trust and relationships beforehand, it becomes much less about the dental work and more about the environment. I generally don’t do work on the first appointment. Sometimes I have them come in a few times so they can get used to me and the environment. So by the time I do dental work, they are more comfortable. A lot of times when one kid has an appointment, their siblings want to come.
JJ: What’s been your reaction to your videos going viral?
ES: It’s been an interesting experience. I have gotten messages from hundreds of people all over the world. I am now able to share my techniques and tips with other practitioners in many fields to help make their patients’ experiences easier. I am also happy that it has brought a more positive spin to how dentistry is often portrayed in the media.
more magic!!!! Riverfront Pediatric Dentistry- Eyal Simchi, DMD
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Posted by Riverfront Pediatric Dentistry- Eyal Simchi, DMD on Thursday, May 17, 2018
JJ: Do you work primarily in the Jewish community?
ES: My practice is a mix. I see patients from all over. Some people come from several hours away. My practice is different, aside from the magic. I’m a dental nerd, so I use the latest techniques and less-invasive treatment whenever possible.
JJ: How does your Judaism inform your work?
ES: It’s just who I am. I grew up Orthodox and that’s pretty much what my life is. I don’t really see it as a separate outside description of me, but rather an intrinsic part of every part of who I am and what I do. I feel like whatever actions I take should be a reflection of the positivity of Judaism.
JJ: Why is your faith so important to you?
ES: My faith helps guide my decisions and allows me to live every day knowing that I am following the beliefs of my parents and grandparents for generations.
JJ: How many tricks do you have in your repertoire?
ES: I’m not a very skilled magician but I know about 20 tricks. Every so often I add a new one.
JJ: How has the magic helped alleviate kids’ fears of the dentist?
ES: We’re pretty successful with it. Some of the kids have had previous bad dental experiences and need some time to get past their initial fear.
JJ: Does having six kids help you with patience and compassion in your practice?
ES: Yes, I think so. I also grew up as one of 10 kids, so I’ve always been around kids. I have a good sense of what might be bothering them and can address it. Sometimes it’s something simple, rather than the whole experience.
Allison Futterman is a freelance writer living in Charlotte, N.C.