Students around the U.S. are getting ready for their first day of school, if they haven’t had it already. Students at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine began their academic year in early August.
The Class of 2026 celebrated the annual White Coat Ceremony on August 11. But third-year students started the fall semester two days earlier, as some fourth-year student dentists were busy finishing summer clinics.
Let us make an introduction to some new students at the school for you. They may be caring for your oral health at Penn Dental Medicine (PDM), the school’s teaching clinic.
At PDM, third- and fourth-year student dentists provide skilled care using the latest techniques and advanced materials. Faculty doctors closely supervise each one, offering expertise, advice, support, and teaching.
Gabby Ciancimino and Paul Espiritu are both third-year students who will be practicing restorative dentistry at our dental school clinic. Read on to learn more about their academic careers and passion for dental care.
When she was younger, Gabby Ciancimino used to be “super-anxious and scared” about dental visits.
But in high school, she developed a desire to address inequities in oral health care. That focus motivated her to overcome her dental phobia through a year of hypnotherapy.
“I wanted to dedicate my life to a career that integrated my appreciation for science and medicine with my passions for caring for vulnerable populations,” Ciancimino said. “I saw a huge disparity in underserved populations receiving dental care. I wanted to be the change I wished to see.”
A graduate of the University of Florida, Ciancimino chose to attend the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine because it offers significant opportunities for professional and personal growth. She points to the Personalized Care Suite in the Care Center for Persons with Disabilities as one example.
Days when she can serve patients in the clinic are Ciancimino’s favorite days of school. “The joy I feel walking into the clinic and providing services has reassured me I am exactly where I need to be,” she said.
Ciancimino is especially interested in caring for patients with special needs, and in pediatric dentistry. She said she feels valuable “doing the exact thing I pictured myself doing back in high school. The most rewarding part is knowing you are making a difference in someone’s health.”
Hailing from Queens, New York, Paul Espiritu earned his undergraduate degree at St. John’s University. Dental students he met during summer externships, including the University of Pennsylvania’s Introduction to Dentistry Summer Program, inspired him to attend dental school and enter this “amazing and intricate” field.
Espiritu saw firsthand how dentists “could transform a patient’s smile and thus alter their entire self-perception. After seeing how dentists had the ability to change lives, I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my preceptors.”
Already familiar with the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, Espiritu chose to come back because he sees the institution as a pioneer. “PDM is always making remarkable differences in the world as well as the community of Philadelphia,” he said.
Espiritu enjoys collaborating in PDM with inspiring colleagues “from all walks of life.” He said, “everyone is extremely supportive, which creates an environment [that] cultivates growth.” He also appreciates the school’s emphasis on creating “well-rounded healthcare practitioners,” whether students want to “specialize or excel in general dentistry.”
Currently, Espiritu is most interested in endodontics. “[Endodontics] allows patients to preserve their natural dentition,” he said, “and prevent the multitude of complications that can come with failing implants and crestal bone loss [bone loss around implants].”
In his free time, Espiritu enjoys the “abundance of food and drink festivals” in the Philadelphia region with friends.
Both Espiritu and Ciancimino agree PDM provides not only a superior dental education but also several unique advantages for patients.
“Although [PDM] is a teaching institution, and completing treatment may take a bit longer than in a private practice setting, I [am] extremely relieved to see my patients genuinely grateful for our meticulous and effective treatment,” said Espiritu. “I thoroughly enjoy seeing a patient being able to receive affordable treatment that holds [to] the highest standard of quality.”
Similarly, Ciancimino points to the “thoughtfully considered” treatments PDM patients can receive at costs lower than those of most private practices. “The faculty teaching us have years of experience that [allow] them to approach patient care from multiple perspectives and disciplines,” she said. “The students are eager to learn and help the patients, which makes it enjoyable for both parties.”
We hope you enjoyed this introduction to two new students at PDM. Maybe you’ll meet Gabby Ciancimino or Paul Espiritu for yourself when you visit our dental school clinic.
No matter which of our student dentists you work with, you can be confident you’re receiving skilled, comprehensive, patient-friendly dental care, closely supervised by nationally and internationally renowned dentists, at affordable rates.
Schedule your appointment today by using this online form, or call us at 215-898-8965.