Monday, May 20, 2024

The Hollywood Smile Secret: Dr. Rhonda Kalasho

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Not all dentists are created equal. Meet Dr. Rhonda Kalasho — Hollywood’s favorite dentist for good reason.

There’s no skirting around it: going to the dentist is its own kind of hell. We hate it so much we compare the worst things in life to procedures like the dreaded root canal. But as much as we fear the dentist’s chair, its contributions to our overall well-being and quality of life are invaluable — even life-changing.

According to the National Institute of Health, tooth abscesses, while rare today, were a leading cause of death just 200 years ago. Advances in oral health have steadily increased over the centuries, but poor dental health is still linked to numerous health issues, including a decreased lifespan. Recent research found that for older women with a history of periodontal disease, a serious gum infection, their risk of premature death was 12 percent higher than those who did not have gum infections. For women who lost teeth prematurely, their risk of early death was 17 percent higher.

And, yet, despite the advances in dental care, issues such as tooth decay and gum disease are on the rise globally, says the World Health Organization. Tooth decay remains one of the most common chronic diseases among children and adults. It’s estimated that more than 90 percent of adults aged 20 to 64 have had dental caries in their permanent teeth. Periodontal (gum) disease, which can lead to tooth loss, affects a significant portion of adults, too, with severe gum disease affecting about nine percent of adults. Diet is typically the leading factor in our dental woes, but genetics also factor in as do our oral care habits (do you brush and floss twice daily?), and having access to preventatives like fluoride. Dental services can also be quite expensive — a factor that can deter many individuals from seeking necessary care, further adding to the issues and the anxiety of sitting in that chair.

Dr. Rhonda Kalasho.
Dr. Rhonda Kalasho, dentist to the stars | Photo courtesy TruGlo Modern Dental

I had my own scare a few years ago after a chunk of molar fell out while flossing. (It turned out to be part of a filling, not the actual tooth.) It was covid times and I hadn’t been to a dentist in a few years — letting the threat of a global pandemic serve as my excuse for avoiding the chair. But, faced with a situation I could no longer ignore, I found the best-rated dentist I could and she just happened to be a few miles away in Hollywood, Dr. Rhonda Kalasho of TruGlo Modern Dental. A few floors up from the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it’s not uncommon to see some of those celebrities sitting in Dr. Kalasho’s waiting room for any of her treatments. (Dr. Kalsasho and her TruGlo staff offer cosmetic, emergency, and general dental care, as well as treatments for conditions such as bruxism and sleep apnea.) But, celebrity or not, Dr. Kalasho’s secret weapon beyond her own Hollywood smile is that she and her staff treat every patient like an A-lister.

I hesitate to use words like “good” and “great” when talking about a dentist appointment. I don’t want to be misleading — going to the dentist is never high up on my “things that are great” list. But Dr. Kalasho is of another ilk. She and her staff are worthy of words like good and great. After she and her staff fixed my broken tooth (and several other issues), I made her my regular dentist and, critically, I no longer see the dentist chair as punishment. Part of that is Dr. Kalasho’s efforts to mitigate patient stress. Patient stress is a big problem for patients and an even bigger challenge for dentists trying to work around it. According to the Cleveland Clinic, About 36 percent of people in the U.S. have a fear of dental treatments, with 12 percent having an extreme fear. This can make procedures difficult and even dangerous for the dental care provider.

“We employ various techniques to help patients manage dental anxiety effectively,” Dr. Kalasho told me via email. “Firstly, our team is trained to create a welcoming and calming environment in our offices. We communicate openly with patients, addressing their concerns and fears empathetically. We also utilize distraction techniques that are proprietary but effective along with simple distractions such as playing soothing music or providing entertainment options during procedures. Additionally, we offer sedation options like nitrous oxide, oral sedation, and IV sedation for patients with severe anxiety.”

I’ve never used IV sedation at a visit, and according to Dr. Kalasho, it’s typically reserved for more complex procedures or patients with severe anxiety. There’s also nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, which is inhaled through a mask and provides mild sedation and relaxation. “It wears off quickly, allowing patients to drive themselves home after the procedure. The choice between the two depends on factors such as the patient’s medical history, the complexity of the procedure, and the level of anxiety,” the doctor says.

Dr. Kalasho says that while these sedation methods are options, she advises her patients to communicate openly about their concerns or fears so that they can avoid the risks (and costs) of sedation. “We encourage deep breathing exercises or mindfulness techniques to help [patients] relax during appointments,” she says. “It’s also helpful for patients to schedule appointments at times when they feel most relaxed and to bring a trusted friend or family member for support if needed.”

TruGlo Modern Dental dentists (l to r): Dr. Yalda Rostamnezhad, Dr. Rhonda Kalasho, Dr. Mary-Ann Khamis, Dr. Michele Ginsberg.
TruGlo Modern Dental dentists (l to r): Dr. Yalda Rostamnezhad, Dr. Rhonda Kalasho, Dr. Mary-Ann Khamis, Dr. Michele Ginsberg | Photo courtesy TruGlo

Part of the problem behind the anxiety or fear is similar to how I became a patient at Dr. Kalasho’s office in the first place. I waited until there was an emergency. “One common misconception is that dental visits should only be scheduled when there’s a problem or pain,” Dr. Kalasho says. “We educate our patients about the importance of preventive care and regular check-ups for maintaining optimal oral health.” Of course, most of us know this already. But, if you’re like me and floss and brush daily, it’s easy to justify sidestepping the twice-yearly visit. And that may seem like a victory, but the reality is much more nuanced.

According to Dr. Kalasho, there are also misconceptions about cosmetic dentistry being only about aesthetics. “We emphasize that cosmetic procedures can also improve oral function and overall well-being,” Dr. Kalasho told me. She says one common mistake she sees often is her patients overusing whitening products with high-concentration peroxides, which can lead to enamel damage and tooth sensitivity. “Patients may also neglect proper oral hygiene practices, which can compromise the whitening results.” She says it’s crucial to consult with a dental professional before starting any at-home whitening regimen to ensure safety and effectiveness. “Achieving and maintaining a bright, healthy smile through teeth whitening treatments requires professional guidance,” says Dr. Kalasho. “We recommend in-office whitening procedures for faster and more effective results. It’s essential to follow post-whitening care instructions provided by our team to prolong the effects and avoid sensitivity.”

It turns out that regularly going to the dentist is the best way to avoid going to the dentist for those irregular visits — the oops-part-of-my-tooth-fell-off kind of panicked visits. “Dental hygiene and regular check-ups are crucial for maintaining oral health,” says Dr. Kalasho. “Proper oral hygiene routines, including brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits, help prevent dental issues and ensure the success of cosmetic procedures. Regular check-ups also allow us to detect and address any issues early on, preventing them from escalating into more significant problems.”

Dr. Kalasho emphasizes the importance of addressing dental concerns promptly to prevent complications and maintain optimal oral health in the long term. “Regular dental visits, proper oral hygiene practices, a balanced diet, and avoiding harmful habits like smoking are essential for maintaining a healthy smile,” Dr. Khalaso says. “It’s essential for patients to understand that oral health is integral to overall health and well-being.”

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