October 12, 2016
Sugar Bugs, an illustrated children’s book by Dr. Sam Weisz, a 2006 alumnus of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, and his wife, Erica, tells the story of a boy named Robbie whose mouth is home to the Mutans family—the “sugar bugs.”
“It was always sprinkle donuts for breakfast, lollipops for lunch, and gummies for dinner. But then things started to go rotten…,” the book says.
Fortunately, Robbie visits the dentist, “Dr. Sam,” where he learns the ways to help take care of his teeth.
The book serves as a primer to helping parents frame a better conversation about visiting the dentist.
“My dental colleagues and I have always been frustrated with the language in dental children’s books,” Dr. Weisz explained. “There was a high need for a book that talked about going to the dentist in a positive way, avoiding words like, ‘scary,’ or even ‘it’s not scary,’ which has the same effect, and getting parents on board with how and when to treat dental issues.”
The story grew from something Dr. Weisz tells young patients when cleaning their teeth—that he’s “getting the sugar bugs out.”
So Dr. Weisz wrote the story, and Erica illustrated it. Erica also runs her own children’s book publishing company, Trism Books, so she knew how to get the book published, and also distributed by Independent Publishing Group, a firm providing the company’s books to wholesalers and retailers.
Just because Erica runs a publishing company did not make it easy to put the book out, however.
“It must have taken a year or so with six or seven edits, because every single one of those words has so much more power in one of these small books than if we were writing a novel,” Dr. Weisz explained.
The result, however, has been gratifying. “Dentists are genuinely excited when we connect, because they finally feel like they have a book to share with their patients and be proud of,” Dr. Weisz said. “We’ve done the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry meeting a couple of times, the Greater New York, the Chicago Dental Society Midwinter, and each time dentists tell us how they’ve been looking for a book like this.
“No offense to the competition, but some books have bloody teeth or frightening language, and dentists say they actually rip out some of the pages because they don’t want kids seeing that in their waiting rooms,” Dr. Weisz said.
The Weisz book teaches youngsters to brush twice a day, floss, see the dentist twice a year, and eat healthy foods.
“Sugar Bugs can help a dentist frame the conversation with kids and parents, particularly for those dentists who visit schools and do community outreach,” Dr. Weisz said. “As dentists, we’re not generally used to managing a classroom, but the book helps me and others to be able to do that by honing in on those recommendations.”
Dr. Weisz is quick to note that practicing dentistry “is still my number one passion.” He works in a group practice, Libertyville Dental Associates in Libertyville, IL, with his father, Dr. Alan Weisz, ’76, and their partner Dr. Carl Katz.
“Together we head a true ‘family’ practice,” Dr. Sam Weisz said.
“Sugar Bugs is an extension of what I learned at UIC,” Dr. Weisz concluded. “Through prevention, patient motivation, and a commitment to our communities, we have the power to help heal.”
The book is available for $14.95 on bookseller websites such as Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, and from Henry Schein.
Photo: Dr. Sam Weisz, UIC College of Dentistry '06, and his wife, Erica, promoting their book 'Sugar Bugs.'