How Does a Pediatric Dentist Keep His Fingers and His Sanity? Keeping Dentistry Weird
By Patrice Keet
How do you keep your cool and your huge, winning smile when you have little kids screaming; plus parents that are anxious, and all the usual demands that go with running a business?
I wanted to find out what makes pediatric dentist Seth Reder tick and why he and his wife, Andrea, teamed up to start their own local business, Capitola Kids Dentistry off 40th Avenue. Andrea and Seth moved to Santa Cruz seven years ago. They have two daughters: Norah, 2, and Maeve, 1.
“I come from a long line of dentists and ended up following in my father’s footsteps,” he says. “I always knew I wanted to do something that helps people and I’m fascinated by how kids think — what makes them act the way they do? How they learn so much, so fast? My own childhood had the unusual challenge of being an identical twin. We had red hair and were twins so we stuck out in a crowd, and sometimes that wasn’t a good thing. I struggled to understand why I was being teased. I wanted to connect, not be pushed away. But I’ve since realized that I’ve grown into a better person due to this experience and it has allowed me to relate to kids who may also feel alone or scared for whatever reason.”
“As an identical twin, it took me time to realize that I could be an individual; that I could stand alone and even be a leader,” he continues. “I think this challenge has made me more aware of individual needs, especially in my practice. Each family comes in with its own particular set of ideas about what they want for their child’s oral healthcare. Listening, and listening some more, is the way I get to know the children and families. Dentistry is all about teamwork and trust; oh, and having fun.
“I use my puppets, Happy and Excited, to break the ice sometimes and to show how to brush correctly. My office motto is: ‘We treat your family like our family and friends; we have fun and like to be a little weird at the same time.’ We try to be playful when we can, which helps relieve some of the stress.”
Seth, 40, finds joy being in nature. He’s on his surfboard as often as possible. Asked why he chose Capitola for his family after living most of his life in Southern California, Seth poetically describes his love of the pace of the slow coast.
“It suits me. I resonate with the smell of docks and a fresh catch— and I love a mushroom foraging adventure in the mysterious redwood forests. This area has it all, but I’m not just interested in playing.
“I want to give back to my community. Capitola is small enough that you can make a difference here. Last year I joined the Board of the Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery. And I do a quarterly presentation for Early Childhood Education students at Cabrillo College about nutrition, developing emergency plans and creating partnerships with families around healthy habits. I learned a lot from my dad who taught me that my word is the main currency I have; that being on time means being early, and that if I give 100 percent to my commitments, I will never be regretful.”
His toughest challenge is treating cavities in kids younger than 3. He sings to them, plays with puppets, has toys for them to play with, but still, even his own daughter cries on the chair.
“That’s why I focus strongly on prevention,” he says.