As you probably know, the first line of defense against flu is to wash your hands frequently and keep them away from your face. But did you know that it was a French dentist, Arnauld Gilles, who first advocated hand washing for infection control back in 1621? His book “The Flower of Remedies Against the Toothache,” was the first French text on dentistry, and Gilles describes himself as an “Operator for the Teeth.” In his book Gilles speaks out against practitioners who treated patients without cleaning and washing their hands, thus carrying infections from one patient to the next.
Unfortunately Gilles’ recommendation to wash your hands was ignored by his medical colleagues. And it wasn’t until two centuries later, in the mid-nineteenth century, that Joseph Lister began to disinfect surgical instruments and Louis Pasteur showed the connection of bacteria to disease. But even 200 years after Gilles wrote his book, these ideas were considered revolutionary and provoked fierce opposition from the medical profession.
In my Long Island dental office I follow strict infection control procedures, including steam sterilization, surface disinfection and use of disposables whenever possible.