Growing up, Bob Kilareski liked going to his dentist so much he decided to join him.
Kilareski, 40, stuck to his childhood plan. Today he works as a pediatric dentist with Dr. John Kelly at Pediatric Dental Care, in a Patton Township office festooned with colorful jungle animal figures. In a profession devoted to keeping young teeth and gums healthy year-round, one day stands out in particular.
On March 8, his clinic once again will partner with Centre Volunteers in Medicine for the Give Kids a Smile and Vision for the Future Day, now in its 10th year. The event provides free dental care and vision screenings for children from families without adequate medical insurance. Last year, 52 children received dental exams, fillings, X-rays, sealants and other treatments.
For Kilareski, who has three children, the day fits squarely into a satisfying career spent helping youth feel and smile better.
What led you to be a pediatric dentist?
Im a townie. So I was born in State College. I grew up going to Dr. Kelly. Dr. Kelly, whos our senior partner here, was my dentist, and I enjoyed spending time in the office. I think I had a lot of cavities, which is why I spent a lot of time there. They seemed to be having a good time there and doing a good service.
I had always been a science person ... I decided in third grade with a friend of mine in class. We both decided we were going to become pediatric dentists and take over from the guys we went to as kids, and its worked out for me.
Do you remember what was appealing to you?
They just seemed to be having fun, fun there at work. They were doing good. They had video games. I loved playing the video games there. It just seemed to be cool.
You said they had real arcade games, right?
I think at one point I held the high score for Tron. It may have been just for a day, until they unplugged it.
How did you come back to the clinic here?
I kind of always knew I was coming back to be with Dr. Kelly. During my education, I traveled around as much as I could, just to see different places and live in different places. I went to school in Vermont for a while, at St. Michaels College. Dental school at Northwestern in Chicago. I did a residency in pediatric dentistry on Long Island at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, just to travel around as much as I could. The opportunity just worked out great, as far as [Pediatric Dental Care] was expanding at the time ... They were building a new building about the same time I came in initially, 12 years ago. So I was here a couple of months before we moved into a bigger building, and Ive been here ever since. Thirteen years this summer.
Through the clinic youve been associated with the Give Kids a Smile event. What does it mean to you to be part of that community outreach?
Its great. Weve been blessed, as a practice and as individuals. We feel we have an obligation. We participate in medical assistance. We have an obligation to help kids, because theyre not responsible for their situation. ... Give Kids a Smile is really the most visible thing, as far as our partnership with CVIM. We dont do it for the publicity. We just do it to help kids. But it kind of lends itself naturally. CVIM started in [State College] in 2003, and thats when Give Kids a Smile started nationally with the [American Dental Association]. [CVIM] approached us, and we said, You know what? Its best ... Were set up to take care of kids here in our office, so weve just volunteered our space to have everybody in. Weve partnered with Nittany Eye Associates. Theyve been great over the years. Theres various other sponsors as well. Its been a great partnership.
You mentioned working with your father during the event. What has that been like?
Thats been one of my favorite parts of the event. Unfortunately, hes going to miss it this year. Both he and my mom have volunteered each year with us at Give Kids a Smile. My dad, hes a civil engineer and doesnt know a lick about dental assisting or dentistry in general, but he loves coming in and having a good time, joking around. Hes the dentist for the day. He usually assists me during Give Kids a Smile, and its just nice to work with him. Its a good feeling when you know youre making your dad proud of what youre doing.
What are some of the problems you see?
Well see anything from some kids just need cleaning, get them cleaned up, fluoride treatment, hopefully to prevent things, make the teeth a little bit stronger. Well have kids that need simple fillings. Weve got a cavity or two in there that we just clean out and put little fillings in. Weve got kids who have a lot of extensive decay, meaning not just fillings but caps. Well have kids with cavities into the nerve, and we have to do what we call baby root canals, little pulpotomies, put some medicine into the nerve and caps on the teeth. We have kids who need teeth taken out, and spacers put in if possible because baby teeth, they all fall out, but at the same time theyre very important for growth and development of the jaw, and the kid as a whole.
Any tips for parents to promote better dental care?
Unfortunately, a lot of parents think, Geez, theyre baby teeth. Theyre going to fall out. We dont have to worry about them. But, really, like I said, theyre extremely important: growth, development, facial support. Smiling. Its pretty important to smile, you know. Smiling and eating, but also to hold the room for the permanent teeth to come in on their own.
As far as parents are concerned, its just watching diet and hygiene. Theres bacteria in our mouth that eat the sugars we take in. They make acid that sits on our teeth and makes holes. Thats cavities. So cavities are an infectious disease. If mom or dad tends to have more cavities, then their kids do as well, just because were sharing spoons or cups. Body chemistries are similar as well.
So its real important to watch diet. Its frequency of sugars that gets us in trouble rather than amount. Try to keep sugar intake limited to meal time. Dont let a kid graze through the afternoon or the evening. If we have juice in a sippy cup, keep it to meal time. Dont let the kid sip all afternoon or evening, and especially nothing to bed or for a nap, unless its water. Get in there and brush a couple of times a day. Most kids dont have the coordination to brush on their own until theyre about 8 years old or so, and even then they still kind of need a watchful eye on them, because they tend to rush through it and not do a great job. Its great if they want to get in there and do it themselves, but then mom or dad has to get in there and help them out as well.
If you hadnt become a dentist, what would you like to have done?
I enjoy teaching. The other thing that Ive always said that I wouldnt mind doing because I grew up listening to the Kingston Trio, Simon & Garfunkel, those were parents favorites, the Mamas and Papas, Peter, Paul and Mary, all that stuff, and [my co-workers make] fun of me Id love to be a folksinger. I was in the [high school] band. I played piano, I played tuba. I never learned how to play guitar. Guitar would be a pretty cool thing to do, and be a folksinger. I think that would be all right.
Whats satisfying about being a dentist?
I really enjoy working with the kids. Kids are amazing. You never know what youre going to hear. Parents are often worried about what were going to hear. ... Its science-based, but its not completely science. I never could have sat behind a desk all day. Im not a researcher. I really, really enjoy making a difference in folks lives. I had three kids yesterday ... that were up two nights over the weekend in pain. Moms not sleeping; grams not sleeping. They came in and I was confidently able to tell them, Youre all going to sleep a lot better tonight.