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A California cosmetic dentist pioneered the field of anti-aging dentistry and launched his own mouthwash line. But he's never forgotten the life-changing value of improving someone's smile.
When Kourosh Maddahi, DDS, was in dental school he performed more gum surgeries than anyone else in his class. He also did more mouth reconstructions, more extractions, and more work with multiple crowns.
So his response to chairpersons of various departments when they approached him about a career as a periodontist, or a root canal specialist, was most surprising.
“Why would I want to do that?” Maddahi recalls asking them. “That is not my interest. I cannot do [those types of procedures] all day. But what I can do are things where I am changing someone’s life because of their smile.”
And that’s exactly what the Beverly Hills cosmetic dentist had been doing for more than 20 years.
An Early Focus
Maddahi comes from a family of multiple doctors. His brother is a cardiologist, his uncle a general surgeon, and his brother-in-law is an internist. As such, healthcare is in his blood, as is thinking with his mind and working with his hands. But rather than pursue a career as a surgeon, the concept of being a dentist and the art that accompanies it was extremely appealing.
“By age 13 I had already decided that I wanted to become a dentist,” Maddahi says.
Having made that decision early in life, Maddahi was able to give much focus to the college he wanted to attend—he graduated from UCLA at the age of 20—but his projections didn’t stop there. He was already planning on the aspect of dentistry in which he would specialize, as well as how he wanted to run his practice.
“When you know that what you are bound to do is something you really enjoy, you become a happier person,” he explains. “And when you’re doing something that is actually changing someone’s life, that in itself is very rewarding.”
But Maddahi’s work took on an added dimension when he began pioneering the field of anti-aging dentistry. He was working with plastic surgeons doing makeover shows where the first step was the patient’s mouth and teeth.
“When I was looking at the teeth, I was looking at how is it relating to the smile, how is it relating to the left cheek and everything else,” Maddahi says. “I started to push the envelope little by little as to make the smile a little bit more beautiful, and make it more in the correct position.”
Today he works with many plastic surgeons, even some who perform rhinoplasty, in a collaborative fashion. He’s also written a book on the subject, Anti-Aging Dentistry: Restoring Youth, One Smile at a Time.
Oral Hygiene Products
Several years ago Maddahi began noticing that the mouthwash he was giving patients for maintenance following full mouth reconstructions was staining patients’ teeth and temporaries. He wondered, why isn’t there a clear mouthwash?
But there was more. He also noticed that when patients used mouthwash following gum or teeth surgeries they were experiencing discomfort and more of a burning sensation of their gums. That was due to the alcohol content in the mouthwash.
“I would tell our patients who had an extraction done by an oral surgeon or gum surgery by a periodontist not to drink any alcohol, because alcohol delays healing of the gum or oral tissue,” Maddahi explains. “So why would we have alcohol in mouthwash? And the percentage of alcohol was 21-26%, which is higher than wine and beer. Why should we be rinsing with it?”
He started to investigate alternatives that are chemical-free, preservative-free, dye-free, and contain no sodium saccharin. The problem was he couldn’t find any.
“I couldn’t find a clear mouthwash,” Maddahi says. “I couldn’t find one that had no preservatives, and no dyes or anything, and no chemicals. So I decided, you know what, I’ve had it, and I’m going to create my own.”
Salt of the Sea
Maddahi partnered with a colleague, a periodontist, and they started with the concept that as children, every time they had a sore throat or a problem with their gums, the doctor, the dentist, or even their mother or grandmother would tell them to rinse their mouth with warm salt water.
They also found results of a 10-year study performed on homeless children in Manila. The children, all of whom had gum disease, were asked to rub sea salt on their teeth and gums. No flossing and no toothpaste. After 10 years, their children’s gum disease disappeared.
“And that’s just sea salt,” Maddahi says. “But the taste is not good.”
So Maddahi and his partner added some essential oils for fresher breath, as well as xylitol, an anti-cavity type of sugar substitute, and organic aloe vera juice. The end result is a mouthwash Maddahi says is very pure. And it’s the centerpiece to his line of hygiene products, Oral Essentials, that includes toothpaste and floss, as well as variations on the original mouthwash formula for dry mouth and sensitive teeth.
A Vibrant Life
By his own admission, Maddahi lives a vibrant life. He will fly into New York overnight to conduct interviews about his line of hygiene products, then fly back for hiking, bike riding, or even heading up to Canada for some zip-lining with his family. But as near and dear as those activities are to him, everything comes back to the change he feels his work brings to people’s lives.
“There are so many patients who come to me, and some will tell me that they haven’t left their home for a year or two because they’re so embarrassed about their smile,” Maddahi says. “They’ve always been dreaming of a nice smile. I get to put in something that’s never been there. It’s that change that I can bring about in their life that is the highest level of reward.”