By Kymberly Amara
This month is dental hygiene month and just like good nutrition is important, dental hygiene is equally important. In celebration of National Dental Hygiene month, I had the opportunity to chat with America’s favorite dentist, Dr. Jarrett Manning about dental hygiene, the prevalence of periodontitis in African-Americans, mentoring the next generation of dentists, and her phenomenal career.
Going to the dentist is and should be a part of everyone’s total healthcare but, it can be chock full of surprises and downright scary for many. Although a necessary evil, some are vehemently against making the trip to sit in the infamous “dentist engine” to allow the said dentist to treat their teeth. Dr. Jarret, who is all too familiar with this kind of patient, is working to dispel the stigma surrounding the dental profession through her dental practice JLM Dentistry, she’s also focused on raising interest to go into dentistry and mentoring the next generation of dentists that are interested in becoming “dentalpreneurs” themselves.
Growing up in a small Mississippi town, Dr. Jarrett recalls the heavy emphasis placed on education during her childhood. College was the only option. She says she knew early on that she wanted to be a doctor of some sort, “I knew from an early age that I wanted to be some type of doctor and I think my dentist growing up heavily influenced my decision to go into dentistry.” She recalls that she never had issues going to the dentist and as such she settled on going into dentistry.
An HBCU alum of Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana (shoutout to all HBCU alums!), she states that when she got to Louisiana, she knew that she had to figure out how to balance college life. She realized that high school had done little to prepare her for college especially when it came to studying but she refused to return home. It didn’t take long before Dr. Jarrett figured things out. She began hanging out with intelligent people, surrounded herself with positive influences, and joined a sorority. Despite the changes, she states that she was still unsure of the kind of doctor that she wanted to be, “…it was sort of like I kind of got delayed in figuring that out. So, in college, if you want to go to medical school or dental school you really want to start preparing early and then you want to take that entrance exam like your junior year. Well, junior year came and I didn’t take the exam.” Dr. Jarrett recalls that by this time, she was certain she wanted to be a dentist but to increase her chances of getting into dental school she decided to pursue a master’s in public health.
After being accepted to Tulane University, Dr. Jarrett was blessed to have a mentor who was also a dentist whom she credits as being key to her getting into dental school. She completed her public-health program in only a year and went on to obtain her doctorate in dental surgery from the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry. With a strong educational background and understanding of the health disparities plaguing our communities, Dr. Jarrett was ready to hit the ground running.
Now as a highly sought after and thriving dentist, Dr. Jarrett can impart some of her wisdom onto others via mentorship by bringing mentees into the office to gain first-hand insight into what it’s like to be a dentist. Through her non-profit, Beyond Her Smile, the organization promotes positivity among young girls as well as exposing them to the world of dentistry. She also works with upcoming dentists looking to start their practice through her educational platform, Dental CEOs LLC. “I think it’s important to show young dentists the business aspect. When you come out of dental school, you know how to be a dentist…but when it comes to the business aspect, you don’t get a lot of that training in dental school. So, it’s important for me to show young dentists the business aspects of dentistry just in case they want to have their own practice.”
Beyond mentoring young girls, her mission to change the face of dentistry starts in the community by educating our people about the importance of dental hygiene and utilizing her platform to educate whenever she can. And while the pandemic made things difficult across the board, she believes that things couldn’t be better for new dentists. “I think dentists have a lot more opportunities now because of social media alone. I think definitely the pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench in the program for sure but, I think that it has really allowed us to really adopt that growth mindset to say hey listen things are changing so I gotta to change with it. But I think that because of social media dentists are out there taking the lead, these young dentists are out there taking the lead and showing that dentistry can be cool.”
Dr. Jarrett is one of the best to do it and although she stays busy and booked, she maintains that it’s not so much about balance as it will eventually come. But, it’s more about being whole in the things that are important to you. “I realize I got a lot going on. I’m a dentist, I’m a wife, I’m a mom but if you want to do it, you can do it.” During her time on the reality series, Married to Medicine she says that the overall experience was great and gave a boost to her dental practice.
When speaking on issues plaguing our community concerning dental care, she believes that we are our own worst enemy. Gum disease is the number one reason that people lose their teeth and there is a genetic component. With the prevalence of periodontitis in African-Americans being so high, it’s important that people seek treatment from culturally competent practitioners. While dentistry has evolved, Dr. Jarrett notes that we have to do a good job of educating patients about the side effects of issues like gum disease and periodontitis.
When discussing alternative methods in dental care, Dr. Jarrett states that while she does believe in some holistic approaches, she leans toward traditional dentistry methods. She also has strong thoughts about the wave of folks rushing to get veneers which we deemed the “BBL of dentistry.”I think there is a trend out there that is very popular, it’s not cute. I see the responses, I see the comments on social media. I see people really gassing certain celebrities up and certain people up, telling them how great their smile looks.” Dr. Jarrett has seen the aftermath of individuals who mostly go out of the country to get veneers at a heavily discounted price and now come to her to fix issues ranging from jaw pain to nerve pain. Dr. Jarrett believes that people looking to get veneers should remain stateside and take the time to research and invest money in getting veneers done the right way by going to a dentist who is experienced and knowledgeable in conducting the procedure.
Having solidified herself as a go-to and subject matter expert in dentistry, it’s only up from here for Dr. Jarrett. Sporting a fierce purple curly cut, Dr. Jarrett excitedly shares her upcoming Black Friday sale for her hair care line, Honey Envy, a brand for all textures.