Top Dentists 2009
Technical expertise and fine clinical care define our state’s top specialists. Under their treatment, getting your teeth straightened, cleaned or replaced is easier than ever. Following, profiles on some of our best.
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Filling cavities is tough on kids. Imagine having to give one a root canal.
Pediatric dentist Rachel Maher treats kids with extreme dental issues. From her office in North Wilmington, and from her post as chief of pediatric dentistry at Wilmington Hospital, Maher unloads serious dentistry on some of Delaware’s squirmiest, crankiest, most uncooperative patients.
“This is a very difficult job,” she says with a laugh. “People think you polish kids’ teeth all day. But it’s very challenging. It’s much more than that.”
Poor brushing habits and worse eating habits have led to a rash of tooth decay in kids as young as 1. Complicated and invasive dental procedures often follow, and Maher is the one left holding the drill. “I filled 20 teeth out of 20 on a 4-year-old recently,” she says. “It was four and a half hours of hardcore dentistry.”
Such cases are becoming common. Chalk it up to the sugary treats kids love to chomp. Gummis and fruit snacks are like kryptonite to teeth. “They’re job security for pediatric dentists,” Maher says. “Parents give their kids two or three bags a day of these things, and they’re sticky and gummy and retentive. Then it’s a matter of not enough brushing, too much sugar, too much bottled water.”
Maher and her staff are working to fix that. Her staffers visit local pre-schools, with toys and puppets in tow, preaching the value of good snacks and the importance of brushing. Maher is often saddled with the task of schooling parents, helping them understand the gravity of proper oral hygiene. The job requires quite a bit of tact.
Maher’s waiting room is filled with toys and DVD players. Once they reach the clinic, kids are treated to Maher’s expert touch, along with a dose of comforting pseudo-child psychology. “Every child is different,” she says. “You don’t know what to expect, because even good ones will have a bad day like everyone else. You have to treat each case individually.”
Maher sees about 40 patients a day, part of her huge, fluctuating pool of youngsters. She is in high demand because she’s trained to handle any situation, from kids with special needs to those with advanced tooth decay.
Most pediatricians don’t refer children to a dentist until they’re 3, which is when they become old enough to cooperate. But Maher is seeing cavities in 3-year-olds, so preventive care on kids as young as 8 months is sometimes necessary.
Maher attended University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and completed a residency at Wilmington Hospital. She went to specialty training in Cincinnati and did a pediatric externship at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which proved to be a life-changing ordeal.
“I was terrified of treating kids,” she says. “That’s why I did the externship. It helped me get over those fears. That was one big door that opened for me.”
Page 3: Endodontics | Greg Dearing