Courtesy Matt Baron for Children’s Dentistry of Forest Park

It’s not every day that you are selected as the “Most Awesome” at something.

So when Dr. Jerry Udelson’s practice gained that recognition from Red Tricycle, in the “Happiest Dentist Offices” category, it affirmed the vision that he has nurtured into reality since launching Children’s Dentistry of Forest Park.

“From the start, we have always emphasized the importance of creating a comfortable, fun environment for children and their families,” Udelson said. “It means a lot to have gotten this stamp of approval from Red Tricycle.”

It’s not some touchy-feely sentiment, either. During a career that spans nearly a quarter-century, Udelson has grown increasingly passionate about the topic.

“Too many kids’ dental visits are memorable for all the wrong reasons,” Udelson said. “There’s no reason for it to be fearful. As professionals, it’s on us to make it as enjoyable as possible—and that helps give children a positive outlook on dental care for their entire life.”

That perspective is what led Udelson to coin Children’s Dentistry’s well-known motto: Little Teeth Big Smiles.

A pediatric dentist since 1989, Udelson founded Children’s Dentistry of Forest Park in 2004. Since then, it has grown to become one of the most highly regarded pediatric dentistry practices in the region. Its prominence and popularity were underscored by the recent honor from Red Tricycle, which came after Children’s Dentistry outpolled nine other finalists throughout the Chicago area.

With a stated mission to “help parents have more fun with their kids,” Red Tricycle’s Totally Awesome Awards came after more than 206,000 votes, nationwide, were cast, across all business and product categories in all of the markets covered by Red Tricycle: New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Los Angeles, Southern California. The website is in the process of expanding to Chicago as well.

All of the finalists were nominated and voted on by readers online. Voting and nomination was limited to one per email to prevent multiple votes and nominations per person.

Children’s Dentistry is located at 1129 S. Harlem Ave., just north of Roosevelt Road, but families frequently have their first experience on the practice’s website. A virtual office tour previews the colorful and playful elements that have become such popular features of children’s visits.

To foster a child-friendly atmosphere that also puts parents at ease, the practice has created an “Under the Sea” theme. The children’s play area is equipped with three arcade-type video games, including Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2 and a touch-screen computer game for younger children.

In addition, artist Lisa Ficarra created floor-to-ceiling murals that set a playful tone for all who visit—and is especially pivotal on a child’s first visit to the dentist. Among other engaging features is an 8-foot circular saltwater fish tank that is home to numerous colorful fish, starfish, snails and anemones.

But those would be mere details if not for another, indispensable ingredient, said Udelson: a warm and welcoming staff. Over the years, he has carefully selected individuals who possess not only expertise in pediatric dental knowledge, but a genuine love for working with children.

In particular, Children’s Dentistry is noted for the breadth of its outreach: Udelson had a brother with cerebral palsy and their relationship helped spur on his desire to care for those with special needs.

“Yes, we like having fun at work. But we are very serious when it comes to moving children beyond their fears or some other negative feeling that they may bring in with them,” said Udelson, the father of four children. “It’s enormously satisfying when we witness a child transform before our eyes.”

For more details about Children’s Dentistry of Forest Park, call 708-FUN-KIDS (386-5437) or visit