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Your Sunny Smile

July 17th, 2024

Your beaming smile makes a sunny day even brighter—and that sunny day can return the favor! How does the sun affect your dental health? Let’s shine some light on the subject.

You may have heard how important calcium is to your body. Over 99% of the calcium in our bodies is used to form teeth and bones, providing strength and structure to the hardest parts of the body. But that’s not the only task on the calcium to-do list. Calcium is also necessary for:

  • muscles to work
  • nerves to carry messages
  • blood to deliver nutrients and oxygen
  • the release of hormones

When we don’t get enough calcium in our diets, our bodies start to draw the calcium they need for these critical functions from our teeth and bones. Over time, a severe calcium deficiency can lead to teeth that are brittle, or more vulnerable to decay, or loose due to weakened bone density in the jaw.

We can get the calcium we need from a balanced diet. Dairy products are our most common source of calcium, and several servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt each day supply most of our needs. If dairy’s not on your menu, though, you can get calcium from other foods like broccoli, kale, collard greens, canned salmon, or sardines. Because calcium is so essential to our health, many foods are fortified with it, including fortified juices, bread, cereals—even tofu!

But there’s a snag here, and it’s a big one. We can’t really benefit from our careful consumption of calcium without the help of vitamin D. If calcium is the doorway to strong teeth and bones, vitamin D is the key that unlocks all of calcium’s benefits.

Without enough vitamin D, our bodies can’t absorb and make use of calcium. However, getting enough of this essential vitamin can be a problem. While we can get most of the vitamins we need from a balanced diet, there aren’t a lot of foods which are naturally rich in vitamin D.

So, how do we get this vital vitamin? The original option comes from nature.

  • Sunlight

Vitamin D is called “the sunshine vitamin” because of the unique chemical reaction that creates it. When the ultraviolet B rays of the sun reach special cells in our skin, they convert cholesterol in these cells to a basic form of vitamin D. These vitamin molecules travel through the body, picking up hydrogen and oxygen molecules in the liver and kidneys to become active vitamin D.

Since sunlight exposure is easy, available, and free, it seems like a simple solution to getting the vitamin D we need.

But we’ve understandably moved away from the days of basking in the sun for hours at a time. Over-exposure to UV rays damages the skin, causing premature aging and, worse, a much greater risk of skin cancer. If you enjoy time in the sun, talk to your doctor about safe sun exposure, which can depend on the part of the country you live in, the time of year, and your individual skin type.

And, if you need to avoid sun exposure, there are other opportunities for getting the vitamin D you need.

  • Diet

While there aren’t a lot of foods which are naturally rich in vitamin D, there are still a few options on the menu. Oily fish like salmon, tuna, and herring—and old-fashioned cod liver oil—are good sources of the vitamin. But most of us don’t live on a strict fish diet!

Instead, we can get the vitamin D we need from fortified foods. Vitamin D is commonly added to cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, and cereals to make sure the calcium in our diet is working effectively to keep our teeth and bones strong. Check out nutritional labels to discover whether your favorite grocery products contain vitamin D.

  • Supplements

For hundreds of years, people who lived in climates and cities without a lot of sunshine suffered from the effects of vitamin D deficiency. Diseases like rickets, where the teeth and bones don’t form properly, were common in children. Adults who couldn’t absorb enough calcium suffered from weak teeth and bones.

Today, depending on age, allergies to sun or food products, dietary choices, and health conditions, some people are still at risk for vitamin D deficiency. If you’ve been diagnosed with this deficiency, your doctor might recommend a vitamin D supplement. (It’s important to take any supplement as directed, because taking too much vitamin D can be harmful, too.)

So, which form of vitamin D is best? Fortified foods? Supplements? Or is it that radiant original source—the sun? No need to worry. With any form of vitamin D, you’re getting the key you need to unlock the benefits of the calcium in your diet—benefits which make healthy teeth and bones possible.

If you have any concerns, talk to Dr. Kassan at our Montclair office about whether you’re getting the vitamin D you need. Your sunny smile will thank you!

Heart Disease and Oral Health

July 10th, 2024

Is there a link between oral health and heart health? This is a question that has been receiving a lot of attention in recent studies. While as yet there is no definitive study that proves oral health has an effect on overall heart health, there is also no definitive proof that oral health doesn’t affect heart health. So, what do we know, and, just as important, what should we do?

What do we know? One clear connection exists between gum disease and endocarditis, a rare, but potentially very serious, infection. When we neglect our gums, they bleed more easily. When gum disease advances, the gums pull away from the teeth. This creates pockets which can harbor more bacteria and plaque, leading to infection and even tooth and bone loss. And this bleeding and infection can be serious not only as a matter of dental health, but for your heart as well.

Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart and the heart valves. When bacteria from other parts of the body, including your mouth, make their way into the blood stream, they can attach themselves to damaged areas of the heart. The resulting infection can become very serious, very quickly. If you have damaged heart valves or artificial valves, have an artificial heart, or have any type of heart defect, it is especially important to prevent gum disease from developing. Regular dental care will help prevent bleeding gums and infections, and reduce the danger of oral bacteria entering the bloodstream. Always let us know if you have any issues with heart health, and we will tailor our treatment for all of your procedures accordingly.

What else might link oral health and heart disease? Because an increased risk of heart disease has been found in patients with moderate or severe gum disease, there has been much speculation as to a possible cause-and-effect connection. For example, the plaque inside arteries which leads to heart attacks has been found to contain certain strains of periodontal bacteria. Other studies have searched for a causal relationship between inflammation resulting from gum disease and inflammation leading to heart disease.  The body’s immune response to periodontitis and its potential consequences for heart health have also been examined. So far, there has been no clear evidence that treating gum disease prevents the occurrence or recurrence of heart disease.

So what should we do? This is the easy part. Keeping your gums and teeth healthy will increase your quality of life in immeasurable ways. And it’s not difficult! Regular brushing, flossing, and dental exams and cleanings at our Montclair office are the key to lasting oral health. If this also keeps your heart healthy, that’s the best possible side effect.

Tell us about your summer!

July 3rd, 2024

The dog days of summer are upon us, and what better time for Dr. Kassan and our team to ask our patients about their summer!

Whether you visited our nation’s capital, went on a camping trip, or just stayed in Montclair and relaxed, we want to know how you’re all spending your summer! Please feel free to share your summer plans and experiences with us below or on our Facebook page as summer rolls on!

What is a crown?

June 19th, 2024

If you have never had a crown before, you might be wondering why crown treatment is best, what the procedure involves, and which type of crown to choose. Let’s get down to the basics of crowns!

A crown is the best way to treat many dental conditions, either to strengthen and save the tooth or to improve its appearance. We might suggest a crown if you have any of the following conditions:

  • A filling that needs to be replaced, without enough tooth structure left to fill properly
  • A tooth that is fractured or broken, or so weak that it might fracture
  • A recent root canal
  • An implant
  • A bridge which needs a crown to serve as the base for attachment
  • A tooth that is discolored or irregularly shaped

On your first visit to our Montclair office, Dr. Kassan will prepare the tooth that will be receiving a crown. A tooth might have to be built up if there isn’t enough of the original tooth left, or the top and sides of the tooth will be shaped down so that the crown fits smoothly and evenly with your other teeth. An impression will be made and sent to a dental lab so that a crown with the perfect fit for your tooth and mouth can be created. A temporary crown will be put in place to protect your tooth while the final crown is fabricated.

 The permanent crown is a cap which covers your tooth. It can be made of various materials, which all offer different advantages:

  • Metal Crowns—made of gold, platinum or base metal alloys, these are the longest lasting. Because of their metallic color, they are often chosen for back molars where they are less visible.
  • Porcelain Over Metal—because the color of the porcelain is matched to your natural teeth, these crowns look very realistic. Porcelain is more fragile than metal, so there is the possibility that they won’t be as durable.
  • Resin—less expensive than other options, but these crowns are more fragile and do not wear as well.
  • All Porcelain/All Ceramic—the most realistic looking option, especially for front teeth, and also suitable for anyone with a metal allergy. They are, again, not as strong as metal crowns, and can be subject to damage.
  • Stainless Steel—often used for baby teeth or as a temporary crown for adult teeth.

We’ll discuss your options and help you decide on the best type of crown for you. When the crown is finished at the dental lab, you will have one more visit where the crown will be secured in place. We will make sure your bite is comfortable and the color and appearance of the crown are satisfactory. We will also give you instructions for the next few days following the procedure, and can make adjustments if needed.

A crown is a perfect example of form and function working together: a crown maintains the beauty of your smile and preserves the health of your tooth. If you need a crown, we will be happy to talk to you about your best options for a strong, long-lasting, and natural smile.

Schedule an Appointment
Gregg L. Kassan, DDS, PC
5077 Waterway Dr, Montclair, VA 22025
(703) 897-0463