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Filling in a Sussex County Niche

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Jessica S. DiCerbo

Pediatric Dentistry | Rehoboth Beach

Coastal residents have warmly welcomed a new business to the beach, but it’s not a restaurant, boutique or surfboard store. It’s Coastal Kids Pediatric Dentistry, and until Jessica DiCerbo opened the practice, parents often had to travel an hour or more to take their children to the dentist. 

Providing care closer to home is critical considering that delaying dental care can cause issues; children should start seeing the dentist when the first tooth appears and no later than age 1. If that sounds early, consider that tooth decay is the single-most common chronic childhood disease, according to the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. It’s five times more common than asthma and 20 times more common than childhood obesity. Early childhood caries, an infectious disease, can begin as soon as teeth start to emerge and progress rapidly, causing significant pain. (Children with ECC are 6 or younger, and they have one or more decayed teeth, missing teeth or filled tooth surfaces due to ECC.)

DiCerbo, who grew up in Broomall, Pa., helped pull out a friend’s loose tooth in second grade. But she didn’t think of a career in dentistry until she was working as an operating room nurse. Although she loved the technical side of medicine, she missed working one-on-one with patients. She wanted to combine her two interests.

“Dentistry made sense,” says DiCerbo, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. DiCerbo completed her residency at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

When DiCerbo learned about the shortage of pediatric dentists in Sussex County,  she decided to fill the niche. “I like to make a difference,” she says. “I feel like I’m needed here.” A federal grant helped bring her to the area, which is considered rural, in summer 2013.

Parents everywhere, however, need to understand the importance of caring for children’s teeth—even baby teeth. “Some children don’t lose their last baby tooth until they are 12 or 13,” DiCerbo says. 

Even at an early age, a lack of dental care can cause problems. DiCerbo has seen a 3-year-old with significant tooth decay. “They may not have the ability to say it hurts,” she says. “They might tolerate it until parents notice that the child is crying or there’s swelling.”

Dentists prefer to save baby teeth because they are spacers that help guide the permanent teeth. They’re also important for eating, language development and self-confidence. 

Hospital dentistry is available for young children who have serious tooth decay. These children are often too upset or afraid to hold still for long periods of time. DiCerbo is on staff at A. I. duPont Hospital for Children.

In addition to checkups, exams, cleanings and fillings, the practice offers digital X-rays, fluoride treatments and dental care for children with special needs and medical conditions.

In the office or in the hospital, the goal is to avoid any emotional trauma. “I want the kids to have a positive experience,” DiCerbo says. “I might be their first dentist, and I want them to have a good impression that will encourage a lifetime of good oral health.”

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