Columbia University Medical Center

Cupcakes and Cavities

When she's not cleaning teeth, this dental resident maintains a baking blog

A large part of her job may be telling patients to cut back on sugar to protect their teeth, but Erica Pitera, a first-year pediatric dental resident at CUMC, has a serious sweet tooth herself.

When she isn’t in class or cleaning children’s teeth, she is often baking desserts, photographing them, or writing about them on her food blog and various social media accounts. And through her blog, “Erica’s Sweet Tooth,” she has built a loyal following and garnered media attention—most recently an appearance on the Dr. Oz Show, demonstrating how to make cupcakes shaped like molars.

Erica Pitera, a first-year pediatric dental resident, blogs about baking in her spare time.

Erica Pitera, a first-year pediatric dental resident, blogs about baking in her spare time.

“Baking is my creative outlet,” says Dr. Pitera.  “Mine just happens to involve a lot of sugar.”

Dr. Pitera’s baking interest took hold four years ago, during her first year of dental school. In her spare time, she was reading baking blogs and doing a lot of cooking. She decided to put a camera she’d received as a gift to use by launching a blog of her own.

“It started as a way to deal with the stress of school—it was my escape. But it really took off,” says Dr. Pitera.

As much as she escaped her studies through baking, she often revisited her coursework on the blog, through dental- and medical-themed desserts. In addition to her anatomically correct tooth cupcakes, she has made tooth cookies and frosted heart-shaped cookies with EKG readings of arrhythmias. She has built a loyal following—now averaging 400,000 visits a month—and earns a modest income through ad sales. Her work has also earned her lots of reblogging, as well as press. In addition to her Dr. Oz appearance, she has recently been covered by Woman’s World Magazine and Ladies Home Journal.

To keep her site current, she works on it every day, whether baking, photographing, photo editing, writing, or responding to comments.

Although she acknowledges the irony of a dentist’s making sweets—and she never makes the low-sugar variety—she said her interest isn’t rare.

“I think you’ll find that many dentists are really into sweets. Any office I’ve ever worked in has so many goodies in the break room. When I first posted my tooth cupcakes to my blog in 2011, many of the comments were from dentists, dental hygienists, and their friends and family who loved teeth and also loved to bake.”

Erica Pitera's molar-shaped cupcakes

Erica Pitera’s molar-shaped cupcakes

She has no difficulty reconciling her love of sweets and care for teeth.

“I tell patients not to eat sweets probably twenty times a day,” says Dr. Pitera. “But pretty much anything is okay in moderation, especially with a little floss.”

For her tooth cupcakes and other treats, check out her website at www.EricaSweetTooth.com

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