The minute-and-a-half-long video shows a dentist, outfitted in a dark blue medical smock with a black kipa on his head and a dental mask hanging from his ears, entertaining a young patient. Behind them, on an office shelf, are some small toys and a stuffed monkey.
To the wide-mouthed delight of 2-year-old Chase, Dr. Eyal Simchi is pulling little red lights seemingly out of thin air, making them disappear and reappear.
All that, before the young patient has to undergo a dental procedure.
The video, made by members of Simchi’s staff in Elmwood Park, was posted on Facebook in May 2018 (link here). Since then, his videos have attracted more than 30 million viewers and made the Israeli native, who came to the United States at 2 with his family, arguably the most-trending dentist on social media in this country.
More Magic! Always awesome to see excited smiles at a dental appointment!!! #riverfrontpediatricdentistry #doingdentistrydifferently #Magicdentist #magic #smile
Posted by Riverfront Pediatric Dentistry- Eyal Simchi, DMD on Monday, 29 October 2018
Nimble with his hands, Simchi, a graduate of Rutgers School of Dental Medicine and frequent lecturer on pediatric dentistry, has taught himself two dozen simple magic tricks. He said he’s heard of a few other dentists who bring some magic to their practice, but have not attracted his level of fame — the national NBC Evening News featured him in a June segment after his Chase video went viral.
Simchi said he does the shtick — which increases the time he spends with each patient — to distract the children (and their parents, who accompany the kids into the examining room) and to make them feel comfortable in an often uncomfortable setting.
In addition to his magic tricks, Simchi might have the children make animals out of blown-up latex medical gloves or have an assistant paint a patient’s nails while undergoing a procedure. Sometimes he’ll treat the kids in the waiting room — he has a portable drill —before they are ready to sit in a standard dental chair.
All this has grown out of his childhood memories of encounters with the profession that he eventually entered, said Simchi, 39. “I didn’t like going to the dentist. It was not a fun experience.”
He doesn’t fancy himself a professional magician — just a medical pro whose goal is to reduce the anxiety level of his young patients, including many children with special needs.
The key “is to get at their level … find out what works for them,” said the dentist, who has lifelong experience with children; he grew up as one of 10 siblings. He and his wife Rochie, a certified labor and delivery nurse who works as his office manager, have six children and live in Passaic.
Families of all ethnicities and religious persuasions drive to Simchi’s office from the tri-state area, some from several hours away, he said. One family, a 4½-hour drive away, arranges a nearby overnight stay when they’re due for a cleaning. “They make it a mini-vacation.”
Steve Lipman is a staff writer for The New York Jewish Week, NJJN’s sister publication.