A few years ago, when I first walked into the office at NoLa Dental Care, I felt as if I was entering a friend’s living room. It was warm and inviting and, while in there, I could watch daytime television as I sipped on some coffee. It was nothing like the dentist offices I encountered when I was growing up: austere, smelling like antiseptic and filled with the fear of a large man holding a drill that I knew would eventually cause indescribable pain.
Well, that was decades ago and times have changed. Now, going to the dentist is a pleasure, thanks to Dr. Rupa Jolly. After meeting her, I no longer dreaded a visit to the dentist, but actually looked forward to it because I felt as if I were catching up with friends and, regardless of cleanings, scalings or even replacements of caps or veneers, there was absolutely no pain involved.
I recently chatted with Dr. Jolly outside of the dental chair and learned that her desire to be creative led her to become a dentist. She attended Tulane for pre-med but decided to go into dentistry and studied at LSU because she never wanted to give up the ability to be artistic and to interact with people. “Because you’re still working with patients, I felt like it was art class. You’re molding, you’re shaping, and you’re looking at colors, but you still have that patient interaction,” said Jolly.
Not only is Jolly a dental artist, but she is also adept at the latest trends in digital imaging, invisalign for gradual straightening and cosmetic procedures such as whitening and veneers. What I found most interesting was her experience with dental care for women at any stage in their life.
When it comes to women, she said hormones were important to monitor. “Going from puberty to pregnancy to menopause—every time hormones change—research shows these changes in hormones can create conditions in your mouth that actually allow bacteria to grow and enter the bloodstream,” explained Jolly. This fact causes a notable concern with pregnant women. “We recommend all pregnant women see their dentists. We usually like to avoid first and third trimesters. We like to see them around the second trimester.”
Jolly went on to explain the intricacies of treating pregnant women. “In the first trimester, we want to keep the bacteria level at a low. We don’t want to shake things up; we want to keep them safe and we don’t do x-rays. But basically, when you’re pregnant, the hormonal changes put you at risk for periodontal disease,” said Jolly. “There was a study in the Journal of American Dental Association that showed that pregnant women with chronic gum disease were four to seven times more likely to deliver premature and underweight babies. So whatever you do when you’re not pregnant—you brush twice a day, floss twice a day—you need to really up that when you’re pregnant, because you’re just fighting against these hormonal changes that are changing the environment in your mouth.”
Even after childbirth and well into your 40’s and 50’s, she focuses on one important factor in addition to brushing and flossing twice a day. “My recommendation would be definitely to cut back on the amount of sugar that sits on your teeth. So if you drink a soda or whatever, get it off your teeth,” said Jolly. “Drink some water…not all of us can run to the bathroom and brush, but it’s important to get [sugar] off your teeth.”
When menopause starts in, taking care of your mouth becomes an even more complicated process. “During menopause, you’ll get an altered taste, sensitivity to hot and cold and decreased saliva flow,” explained Jolly, “So when you have decreased saliva you’re more prone to tooth decay. What happens is the saliva isn’t able to clean the mouth and neutralize the acid there.”
Beside fluctuation in hormones, medications enter the mix when we’re in menopause. “Some medications that we’re taking now decrease our saliva— antihistamines, hormone supplements and certain vitamins. It’s just a natural systemic flow of how it works,” explained Jolly. “Some medications cause dry mouth in some people and don’t in others… It’s kind of like your skin: perfumes might react for me and not for you.”
When women reach their 60’s and 70’s, hormones and calcium become an issue. “What you need to be concerned about is the decline of estrogen that happens as you get older. It just puts you at a greater risk for loss of bone density. We talk about it for the rest of our body—well, it’s the same for our mouths. So, a loss of bone in the mouth and jaw can lead to tooth loss,” Jolly explained. The answer? Calcium supplements work, but Jolly is a big supporter of fluoride. “Other than brushing and flossing, my biggest thing is fluoride. There are a lot of mixed messages out there for fluoride. It prevents tooth decay and basically makes your mouth resistant to acid attacks by the plaque bacteria and the sugars in your mouth.”
Whatever your age, better dental health is only a consultation away. Dr. Jolly is accepting new patients—including men—at her location at 307 Tchoupitoulas. Contact the staff at 504-528-7800 or at www.noladentalcare.com.