Beyond Brushing: How Dr. Zev Zelman Cares for Teeth of Boro Park’s Children

Beyond Brushing: How Dr. Zev Zelman Cares for Teeth of Boro Park’s Children

It is difficult to find children who love going to the dentist—but Dr. Zev Zelman, who also “hated going to the dentist as a child” is aiming to change that.

He is one of a dynamic duo that is quickly becoming one of the most popular children’s dentist office in Boro Park and is bringing an energetic and fresh level of oral care to this neighborhood.

He grew up in Flatbush, the son of a radiologist and a nursing home administrator. “I knew I didn’t want to be a radiologist, because they often have the difficult task of delivering bad news—although many times they are also able to tell patients that they’re actually fine,” he says. “I wanted to be a chef.”

The family davened in Rabbi Lichtenstein’s shul in Flatbush, a big talmid chochom from the old world. “We were like one big family in that shtiebel... and the sweetness of the davenings was otherworldly,” Dr. Zelman recalls. He also grew up on his zeidy’s Holocaust stories—which shaped his outlook on the world. “I would ask him what made him follow the Klausenberger Rebbe in those anguish-filled days following the Holocaust when he had lost so much of his family. He answered simply, ‘the Rebbe gave me bread.’ But in reality, the Rebbe gave him so much more; a will to live, overflowing love, and the strength to rebuild.”

Zev’s first exposure to the field of dentistry came in the office of his uncle, “a great dentist. My parents nixed my dreams of pursuing a culinary degree right off the bat,” he laughs. “They said cooking can be a side hobby.”

Attending Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, he met his future partner, Dr. Lutz. As they were finishing high school, they both knew they wanted to pursue dentistry. They took different paths for their education and training, but they would meet up again. Dr. Zelman wound up in Philadelphia for his training and resided there for a number of years.

After his residency in a Williamsburg hospital, he began working for Dr. Jonathan Waltner who has a practice there. “After my wife, Dr. Waltner was the most instrumental force in shaping my path,” Dr. Zelman says. “He brought all the theoretical knowledge into practice, enabling me to find the right approach to do things, and make wise decisions for my patients.”

With the encouragement of his family, he took the bold step of opening his own practice while in his mid-20’s and saw tremendous siyatta diShmaya along every step of the way. They found an incredible location in a new building on 18th Avenue, and that’s how Boro Park Dentistry for Kids was opened.

Suddenly, he had to deal with hiring (and firing), running an office, medical billing, and carrying the responsibility of the whole operation. While it has been a learning experience, he and his partner have each found their strong points, growing together and contributing to making the practice better every day.

“We know how inconvenient it is to have to wait endlessly in a waiting room, and this is why we stick strictly to a schedule—even though it may sometimes seem insensitive to the patient who wants to be seen now. We simply respect our patients’ time too much.”

Another important philosophy in his practice is honesty. “I will never lie to a child. I will tell him exactly when something will hurt, and gain their trust. With patience and trust, the entire experience becomes more positive, and we build a relationship.”

Beyond regular checkups, which are crucial to their longtime oral health, Dr. Zelman likens regular brushing to negel vasser. “Parents complain that their children won’t brush. They tell me to tell them to do it. And my answer is simple: If you train them to do it from when they are two years old, every day, you will not need to hound them.” And to those who say that bad teeth are genetic, it doesn’t help to brush... “That’s simply untrue,” Dr. Zelman says. “Do this for your children. Their oral health is worth it.”  


“Beyond the…” series is a special project of BP24. Comments may be emailed to [email protected]


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